Educate and Protect the Young (Part 1)

Last week was the first of three annual Patient Safety Summer Camps for graduate resident physicians in 2017. Each year, I learn from the resident scholars who attend about the current safety challenges and barriers they face on a daily basis as they try to both deliver safe care to patients, and learn to become good physicians. Over the last few years, however, I have noticed a growing concern among our Telluride Scholars, a theme that centers on the overall well being of resident physicians in the healthcare workplace.

Discussions around resident well being reached an all-time turning point this past week during an interactive presentation on Care for the Caregiver programs led by Crystal Morales from MedStar Health. During the presentation, Crystal asked the residents to think back and remember the first patient death they experienced—not from a medical error, necessarily, but just the first patient they cared for who died. She asked them to focus on how they felt versus the details of the case, and then inquired if anyone was willing to share their story with the group.

A first brave resident raised her hand. Before she could finish her story, she broke down in tears yet she continued to talk about how that patient’s death affected her still to that day. A second hand was raised and then a third…it was like someone opened an emotional faucet. Each story shared seemed to be both validation and acknowledgment that the pain in serving witness to such loss deserved, and needed, to be honored. The sharing of these stories seemed cathartic; helping ease the pain this group collectively had been holding on to for far too long. Many in the room described Telluride as a “safe place” where they felt comfortable sharing these feelings, and their stories. Portions of their reflective posts on our Telluride Summer Camp blog are shared below. I encourage all of you to visit the Telluride blog and read their stories in their entirety.

  1. “The afternoon of day 3 left many of us in tears as we went through our stories of first deaths and tragic patient outcomes. It was clear, as these stories came out that many of us were still hanging on to these painful memories and will probably do so for the remainder of our careers. Another common thread in these stories was the lack of support after these unforgettable events happened. In healthcare, we are expected to take a deep breath and move on with our days as if nothing ever happened. Take another history, make another diagnosis, and speak to another family, all while making sure we check our emotions at the door”.
  2. “Yesterday during one of our group discussions, people went around the room discussing the first time they were involved in the death of a patient. The different stories told were poignant and extremely emotional. Some of these stories were quite recent while others happened years ago. The unifying trait in all of the stories was the raw emotion and pain in the voices of the speaker. Every story told ended the same way…  “and then I just went back to work.”  Years later it is entirely evident that these wonderful caring people are still hurting. As a profession we are failing. We are eating our young with the perverse attitude that it will build a thick skin and make you a better doctor. We are not robots.”
  3. “Why is this happening? We, the physicians, need to speak up. We need to consider how talking about our own reactions to and reflections of patient care events is indeed a critical piece of patient-centric care. Today, we finally had a chance to let it out, to vent our frustrations, to discuss our feelings of self-blame and near self-collapse. These stories are so important because we have to let each other know, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.”
  4. “If we are unable to care for ourselves, we won’t be able to provide the best care to our patients and their families. The tremendous support ‘care for the caregiver’ provides is amazing and has inspired me to investigate the options my institution can provide.”
  5. We discussed how good it felt today to open up about the loss of our patients and the support (or lack of) we get in these moments. So many times we just need to talk it out, feel heard, and feel validated. These conversations are cleansing and necessary.”
  6. “Today, we talked about care for the caregiver. After all, there is no other workplace like the hospital in terms of sacrifice, acuity, and risk of burnout. With such high stakes, healthcare providers are subject to exorbitant levels of stress that perhaps defy human physical, mental, and emotional capacity.”
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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.


Leading with Love at Telluride Experience: Sydney

DaveLeads_Sydney_CropIt was only a matter of time before the Telluride Experience, which began as a labor of love by healthcare leader, Dave Mayer MD, almost twelve years ago came to Sydney, Australia. Kim Oates, MD, a local healthcare leader, Telluride faculty member and another who leads with love in the healthcare workplace, championed the experience for young healthcare professionals on the third continent this year.

Kim_Teaching_DayOne-2Dave and Kim are two healthcare leaders who know what it means to put the patient first, what patient centered care really means, and they put that knowledge to the test in real life practice. Another gift both leaders possess is the ability to gently teach and guide, without sacrificing principles. They understand how hard it is for healthcare learners to rise above the medical culture because they have lived it. Today, Kim shared that the three hardest words in medicine are, “I don’t know,” and “Please help me.” Dave openly shares his own experience of being on the wrong side of medical harm when he was a resident physician. They both care deeply about patients. They also care deeply about educating young healthcare professionals to not only protect patients, but to also ensure these well-meaning nurses and doctors stay safe as well.

Healthcare needs more leaders like Kim and Dave, who lead with love. They never have to question the right and the wrong of a situation. Their hearts are their true north.

For more information on how to learn alongside healthcare leaders like Dave and Kim, as well as take home the lessons of the Telluride Experience, go to www.telluridesummercamp.com.


Students Meet Faculty in Sydney #AELPS16

OperaHouse_from_WaterThe Telluride Experience faculty has arrived at Q Station Sydney Harbour National Park, an idyllic Telluridesque location in Manly, Australia. The Telluride Experience: Sydney faculty and students will be tucked into this retreat location in Sydney’s National Park just across the water from the lights and cosmopolitan city of Sydney. Q Station and the National Park has a little bit of all Australian terrains, including Manly cove beachfront, bush land and the protection of a canopy of rainforest-like red gum trees.

QStation_RedGumTreesThese spectacular trees serve as home or rest to 150 different types of birds, and resemble our collective efforts at changing healthcare culture by also renewing themselves each year, as they shed their bark presenting a fresh, new salmon colored skin to the surrounding environment.

An old Quarantine Station protecting Kim_FiresUp_Group_IntrosAustralians from smallpox or other contagious disease potentially carried by those seeking to become citizens during the 1830s through 1984, this could not be a more fitting location to host what will be the epicenter of local of patient safety learning over the next four days. Last night, the group shared conversation, introductions and local food and wine to start the week, welcoming one another to yet another intimate and
International patient safety Telluride Experience. Join the conversation on social media, using #AELPS16.Dave_Carrie_Lookat_Intros


#AELPS16: The Sydney Experience Kicks Off April 20th in Australia

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Kim Oates

After a very successful Academy for Emerging Leaders in Patient Safety: The Doha Experience (#AELPS16) workshop in Qatar last month, our faculty will now head to Sydney, Australia mid-April to continue sharing our Telluride Patient Safety Summer Camp curriculum with future healthcare leaders from around the world. Through the years, many Australian patient safety leaders, such as Cliff Hughes, Peter Kennedy and Kim Oates, have been regular attendees and teachers at our patient safety workshops in Telluride CO, Washington DC and Napa CA. The Clinical Excellence Commission (CEC) in New South Wales has also supported a number of young Australian physicians to attend our US patient safety immersive workshops. These young physicians have then gone on to assume quality and safety leadership roles at their institutions upon returning home.

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Carrie Mar

Kim Oates, emeritus professor and Director, Undergraduate Quality and Safety Education at the University of Sydney and Carrie Marr, Chief Executive, at the CEC are the visionary leaders bringing the Academy for Emerging Leaders in Patient Safety: The Sydney Experience program to Australia. The Sydney Experience team includes fellow CEC and Australian healthcare leaders such as Telluride Alum Sarah Dalton MD, and first time attendees, May Wong and Teresa Mastroserio. Thanks to the generous support of the Avant Mutual Group, the major medical defense group in Australia, the Division of Midwifery and Nursing, New South Wales Health, and the CEC, over thirty young medical and nursing leaders will be able to attend #AELPS16: The Sydney Experience, an immersive, four-day patient safety education program. The program has also received significant support from Minister Jillian Skinner, New South Wales Minister for Health, who will attend the last day of The Sydney Experience, and will address both learners and faculty.

We are both honored and energized by the opportunity to distribute our patient safety education curriculum to those at home and around the world who have similar passion of finding new and better ways to deliver the highest quality, safest care to patients. In just two months time, we will welcome Qatari and Australian healthcare professionals into our now global Telluride Experience Alumni network. In 2016 alone, over 700 future healthcare leaders will attend one of many Telluride Experience Patient Safety Summer Camps around the world and become part of this growing network of dedicated and caring patient safety leaders.