Human Factors in Patient Safety
A recent comment asked about sleep deprivation and patient safety. Should we trust doctors who have been up more than 24 hours in a row, when we know their decision making might be impaired? The debate on medical student/resident work hours is enough for a whole other post, but today I’m going to talk about patient safety.
The video “Just A Routine Operation” highlights the dangerous realities of patient care. Mistakes happen. The hospital which is traditionally perceived as a place for people to get better is also one of the most dangerous places for a sick person to be. Doctors over-investigate, super-bugs lurk the wards and decisions are made that impact patient lives.
Having recently done some trauma simulation with other medical students – one where we had a team leader, defined roles, a emergency scenario – I believe there is still a long way to go in making our health care safer. We live in an age of technology, one where imaging and cutting edge interventions are everyday occurrences. There is so much focus on the best evidence based medicine, guidelines and protocols to have best outcomes. Yet, we also live at a time when health care is becoming more fragmented than ever, from generalists and specialists to shift changes and patient handovers. Long gone are the days where one doctor would look after a patient from start to finish. In this interdisciplinary age, every health care profession has a role to play.
To be honest, they don’t teach us a lot about effective communication in our medical training, at least not in the classrooms. We are given some simulations here, some day classes on closed loop communications, and maybe a handout on clear written communication. We might be exposed to some statistics on medical errors, sessions on isolation precautions, maybe even a talk on things like SBAR.
But as a whole, the health care industry has not taken the same steps on quality assurance, human factors and safety as industries such as aviation, engineering, transportation and food.
Seeing this video today reminded me that I’ll have to be vigilant about how I communicate with my colleagues. That learning to work as a team is often more important than book smarts. I hope you can pass this video on to a health care worker, whether it’s a doctor or a nurse or someone involved with patient care, so that they too can make their workplace a safer place for patients.