Communication at Center of #TPSER10 Day One DiscussionsPosted: June 10, 2014
Each year in Telluride, we kick off the week’s conversation on open and honest communication in medicine by showing the Lewis Blackman Story. For the 10th year in a row, Helen Haskell, Lewis’ mom, was part of the Telluride faculty and for the third year, led the post-film discussion along with Telluride Patient Safety Student and Resident Summer Camp founder, Dave Mayer MD. Many of the resident scholars commented on the various levels of communication failure that occurred during Lewis’ care. Doctor to patient communication, provider to provider communication, power gradient communication challenges–it has been clear for some time that being uncomfortable communicating with anyone in the circle of care to patients puts the patient, and also caregivers, at risk. Lewis’ case is an unfortunate example of what goes terribly wrong when open, honest communication is not valued in a health system.
For those of you who haven’t heard Lewis’ story–he is someone you would have loved to have met. He would be 28 years old this year had his path not crossed that surgical suite almost 14 years ago. An actor, a scholar, an athlete — a lover and friend of the underdog–Lewis was the teen you hoped your kid was hanging out with when you weren’t around. By all accounts, Lewis’ was poised to do wonderful things and he left his mark on life early through his caring, thoughtful nature, a witty sense of humor, a loving son and brother, and now an inspiration to many of us trying to make care safer for patients today. He is one of many who serve as an example of continued and senseless loss in our slow movement toward zero preventable harm in healthcare. We need to decide today, that it’s time to take action in new ways to prevent the same stories from repeating.
For example, what can we do to improve our professional communication skills among healthcare teams so that we ensure families like Lewis’ do not suffer a similar loss? So that good, conscientious caregivers are not put through the traumatic experience of harming a patient out of fear of speaking up in a toxic culture? Which medical education programs are stepping up to incorporate interpersonal communication skill building into their core curriculum from the first day of medical school? Please share best practices in teaching medical and nursing student communication, and start an open conversation about better ways to teach communication to care providers at every level.