The University of Connecticut School of Medicine recently recognized the importance of graduate medical education (GME) in reducing medical errors and increasing patient safety. In fact, Dr. Suzanne Rose, senior associate dean for education noted that many medication errors “are preventable through educational initiatives in patient safety.”
To address patient safety, UConn is bolstering its patient safety curriculum with a series of lectures focusing on medical errors. Dr. Scott Ellner, assistant professor of surgery, gave the first lecture. The curriculum is structured for all levels of medical school, as well as nursing, pharmacy and dental students. It centers on the principles of patient safety, including errors and adverse events and how to handle them, as well as accountability.
“If you teach medical students early on, before they go out into their training and actually start seeing patients, you are going to instill in them the values of how to deal with medical errors, how to react appropriately, how to be transparent, and how to provide better quality care,” says Ellner, who plans to bring in patients who’ve been harmed by medical mistakes as guest speakers.
Ellner based the patient safety curriculum on findings and recommendations from the 2010 white paper “Unmet Needs: Teaching Phyisicans to Provide Safe Patient Care,” a report by the National Patient Safety Foundation’s Lucian Leape Institute. “When they went back and did an analysis of all the errors that occurred in health care, it really came down to communication,” Ellner says. “They felt where we are falling short was when we teach the younger providers how to behave in a health care setting, and gave examples of disruptive behavior and how that can impact patient outcomes and can lead to dangerous errors.”
Recommendations—in the operating room, for instance—include using a checklist, making sure everyone in the room understands the plan of care, understanding the equipment, and taking simple steps to ensure the procedure will be performed in the correct location on the correct patient.
Ultimately, Rose maintained that “these curricular topics to be integrated across the education continuum through residency training and continuing medical education for practicing physicians, which we are also doing here at UConn. Our ultimate goal is to make a positive impact on our health care system and to improve the lives of our patients.”