Changing Behavior Through Patient Stories in Telluride

Each new session of the Telluride Patient Safety Summer Camps, Dave Mayer and Tim McDonald share the Tears to Transparency educational documentary films — stories of harm that befell Michael Skolnik and Lewis Blackman–both promising young men–and the impact that harm had on their two families.  As a result, Patty Skolnik and Helen Haskell (Lewis’ Mom) have dedicated their lives to changing healthcare for the better, and have become nationally recognized patient advocates. Through their new careers, both Moms have recognized the need to both “educate (and empower) the young”. The medical and nursing students and resident physicians who attend Telluride often have the opportunity to talk with both parents after each film in an open Q & A. Many students express this being a first exposure to the dysfunctional side of medicine. On the flip side, many also express having witnessed similar poor behavior by those entrusted with leadership positions in an academic medical environment.

Through the generosity of both Michael and Lewis’ families with the sharing of their stories, Telluride attendees are able to practice the difficult discussions focused on in the films in a place where open and honest communication is not only encouraged, but also modeled and set as the baseline. This also re-emphasizes the power of story to change behavior, and as a result, culture. Hopefully this sets a “new normal” for all Telluride alumni – a mindset they can take back to workplaces and educational systems where bullying or a lack of respect prevails and infuse new ideas. Or simply to carry these stories home in their heart, along with the power of the resulting discussions to further embolden environments where a just culture is the norm.

A trailer to the film, The Story of Michael Skolnik, played yesterday morning for our resident scholars is included above. We have been told more than once that the value of the conversations that follow these films each year are unmatched by anything yet to be experienced in the educational experience of health science students. The resident reflections on the Telluride blog today (found here) share some of the takeaways both The Lewis Blackman Story and Michael’s story have inspired this year. The theme from Michael’s story is “Can a conversation change an outcome? Can a conversation save a life?” Based on the enthusiasm for a new normal in Telluride this week, I am happy to report back that the answer to both questions is a resounding YES! When healthcare professionals and patients authentically share their stories and experiences it becomes contagious, inviting others to do the same. I’ve watched this yet again take hold in Telluride. Let’s take this idea viral along with the courage to do the right thing for patients, no matter how difficult, every time.

One Comment on “Changing Behavior Through Patient Stories in Telluride”

  1. pjskolnik says:

    Tracy, The class of Residents this week at Telluride is outstanding. I know they will hold Michael and Lewis’ story in their hearts forever and pay the story forward for others. We are all stepping up to make open honest communication with shared decision making the new culture. Educating the young is our hope and is happening in real time. Thank you to all. Patty and David Skolnik

    Sent from my iPhone Patty

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