A Year of Hope for One Patient Advocate

The following is written by Guest Author and Patient Advocate, Carole Hemmelgarn

In the months of March and April I had the opportunity to take two amazing trips; one to Doha, Qatar and the other Sydney, Australia. Do I feel fortunate to have visited these incredible places? Absolutely! The irony is, however, I would not have been in either location if my daughter Alyssa’s life had followed its natural course.

I was invited to both places to be part of the faculty to teach patient safety and behavior change to the young emerging scholars in the fields of nursing, pharmacy, medicine and allied health. While these young individuals are regarded as our future patient safety leaders they represent something much more to me. They give me hope. Hope that we can start fixing a broken healthcare system by breaking down the hierarchy, improving processes and communication skills, creating resiliency, and learning to provide support and care to our very own healthcare providers. They are also the generation giving hope to patients and families; making sure we are at the center of care, and that our voices and stories are heard, listened to, and acted upon with dignity and respect.

Earlier this year I told my sister that 2016 was the ‘year of hope’ for me. People will tell me they want me to be happy, but I struggle to understand what happiness is or means. Hope, however, is something I can wrap my arms around. I can hope to see a beautiful sunrise while out running, to watch a smile spread across my son’s face, and to see a child exiting a hospital knowing they are leaving better than when they entered.

There is an incredible aftermath when you lose a child to medical errors. It is a topic rarely discussed and one no one can ever prepare you for. Grief is a journey; a journey without a beginning, middle or end. While those of us who have lost a loved one never want you to experience this overwhelming pain we would like you to understand why happiness may take time in returning, or hope may be the best we can ever do.

When I teach these young scholars, I share part of Alyssa’s story because it helps connect the head and heart, and we need to put this piece back into medicine and caring for patients. Every time I speak about Alyssa, I give a piece of myself and my hope is that you take this piece and use it to make change. The future of patient safety resides in hope because hope is not found looking down or back, it is only found looking up.

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Telluride Experience: Sydney Alum Anna Elias Continues to Dream Big

HarborBrushEach of our Telluride Scholars adds their own voice and passion to the patient safety movement that continues to need attention. The following are most likely words of unintentional inspiration from Anna Elias who shows what one individual can accomplish when they care deeply about a cause, and dare to dream they can make a difference. Anna is absolutely right — Watch this space! — her space, because she is on her way to great things!

You can also link to the Telluride Blog where Anna originally posted this piece.

Watch This Space

I think big and dream bigger but have been told many times in my life to stop doing so. My grade 10 careers advisor told me to aim lower when I expressed an interest in studying medicine, a male physician once told me that training a woman was like training half a doctor and I’ve even had a family member tell me that women joining the workforce are responsible for the downfall of modern society. Despite this, I’m now in medical school and will one day soon achieve my dream of becoming a doctor.

Over the last few days I’ve been given the skills and knowledge to undertake projects that improve outcomes for all patients; I’ve been empowered to make a change. Unfortunately these things take time, you need to carefully plan, analyse, monitor and assess. You need a specific problem to tailor your specific, well researched solutions and I am sure in the months and years to come I will use the things I’ve learned and the frameworks provided to make change happen. However, at this point in time, my goal is big and broad, it’s in no way specific and while I’m prepared to to do my due diligence and execute some high quality, quality improvement projects once I find my focus, right now I just need to do something. Improvements to patient safety education shouldn’t have to wait for me to specifically define the problem in a measurable way or wait to get ethics approval. It can’t wait, not while I know there are things I can be doing that will have some impact right now.

Don’t get me wrong, I know we need to improve patient safety, safely by following the right processes and procedures but today I am going rouge, I am not going to wait. Like a hungry Roundtable delegate on the hunt for a burrito I am going to take action. Tonight I will email my contacts and state my case to ensure that patient safety is on the agenda of every student-run educational conference in my state this year. Additionally, I will push to have a safety moment at the beginning of each event my medical society hosts. Lastly, because I can’t be everywhere at once, I will make a time to train others in my medical society so they too can be safety coaches and start getting the word out about this important issue.

One day soon (when step 1 is behind me), I will start the research and do it the right way but I won’t sit ideally by in the mean time. Watch this space.


Voices from The Telluride Experience: Sydney

As in Doha, SolidLine Media was along to capture the stories being told at The Telluride Experience: Sydney! Thanks to Greg, Michael, John, Ali and team for pulling this short video together utilizing movie magic across the continents in time for the Minister of Health herself to view it live in Sydney, at the Clinical Excellence Commission’s reception for students and faculty before we returned home last week.

Truly a great team effort by all to bring the reflections and voices of change to life.