News and Commentary Macy Faculty Scholar Jennifer Myers on Patient Safety

Jennifer Myers MD of the Ruth and Raymond Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania discusses her work as a 2011 Macy Faculty Scholar to advance a culture of safety in teaching hospitals.

Q: Why are you focusing on patient safety as a Macy Faculty Scholar?
Myers: More than ten years ago the Institute of Medicine released a landmark report “To Err is Human” that called attention to the breadth and impact of medical errors in our healthcare system, yet progress to improve patient safety has been slow. Physicians clearly have a role to play and need to be taught early on to both notice and report system failures that can lead to medical errors. Unfortunately, many academic medical centers still have not developed educational programs aimed at training residents to identify and report potential safety problems. As a Macy Faculty Scholar I hope to encourage residents to look for and report errors in their current work environment and to help make the necessary improvements to ensure the care we deliver in teaching hospitals is safer than ever.

Q: How will your Macy-funded project lead to better education for residents, one with a focus on safer, higher quality care?
Myers: My project will pair residents with hospital leaders to tackle shared quality and safety problems. A quality and safety residency track will give interested residents advanced training in patient safety and quality improvement. The project will also focus on faculty development, exploring ways to build skills and capacity in the areas of quality and safety. Ultimately, I hope to develop an educational model for resident engagement in quality and safety activities that other academic medical centers can adopt as they train the next generation of physicians. By engaging residents in quality and safety activities in a meaningful way, I believe we can advance a culture of safety – it is these young leaders who can help us build a safer, higher-quality healthcare system.

Q: What has inspired you personally to take on the issue of safety in teaching hospitals?
Myers: Back in 2003 I led a small project to improve the hospital discharge process at the University of Pennsylvania so that hospital patients could make a safer transition to home. I noticed that the discharge process at the time was haphazard. For example, some patients left the hospital without the information they needed to get crucial follow-up care. I suddenly realized that, while the doctors and nurses could get everything right when the patient was in the hospital, a poorly designed discharge system could put the patient at risk later on. I began to lead the charge to improve the discharge process first within my department, and then throughout the hospital. This was my first quality improvement project.

I was also very interested in the communication and interactions between doctors and nurses and why they break down or are non-existent. This is an area which was not emphasized in my training but is critically important to building a safe environment of care. Along the way, I became more and more interested in finding new ways to involve and teach residents about what I was now learning—that is, how to improve the systems they work in and, ultimately, make care safer for our patients.

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