Monday, November 29, 2010


The TSA is looking at us through our clothing and / or touching our bodies outside of our clothing, to see if we have weapons and / or explosive devices. I personally don’t care. Since having three babies, multiple pregnancies and lots of complications, I am basically immune to being looked at by strangers who probably could care less about what I look like naked unless of course there is something there that they are looking for. I feel very safe when I fly now.

The problem is not that they are looking at us, the problem is how we are treated, as human beings. This can be especially stressful for transgender people. Transgender being an umbrella term for people whose gender identity or gender expression differs from what they present. Working closely, the last year with transgender patients, I have learned that many transgender people don’t want to acknowledge their own body, why should they allow someone else to acknowledge it? Many transgender patients avoid medical care altogether to avoid this inner turmoil. Avoiding care becomes dangerous to anyone who needs to see a medical professional. But would they, or should they have to give up flying for this reason? I don’t think so.

I am not sure what the training is with the TSA but I do know that people in healthcare go for training in privacy. HIPAA has become a common term used in healthcare to keep lips sealed but I guarantee you many people don’t even know what it is used for. We do know that in medical treatment, our privacy is protected. Why then aren’t TSA employees given the same training in privacy and courtesy?

Training can be simple, talk to people about their issues and concerns about being groped or viewed. Learn about the person as a person, not just a number. Hospitals are being pressured to focus on “patient centered care”, viewing the patient as a person. It is not time consuming but it is a different way of working and training. I’m not saying that a TSA employee has to take a customer out for dinner and get to know them, but they should be taught to treat each flyer as they would want their own mother or sister treated. When famous people go for surgery, have a baby or are treated by a medical professional, we can be assured that the information will be protected and in most cases, the patient will be treated respectfully.

Medical professionals will someday be patients and want to be treated with dignity and respect. Unlike airline employees who fly and are seen with their full uniform and treated with courtesy as they go through the scanner, medical professionals who are hospitalized are forced to wear the same exposing garments as us plain folks. Maybe we should start putting TSA employees through scanners too for the public to view.

Monday, November 8, 2010

$154G in medical error - Times Union

When Not Verifying the Patient is Deadly

When the article $154G in medical error came into my “in” box, I almost couldn’t believe this is still happening – even though I know it does. We don’t always get the whole story when it comes to news articles, so I rarely comment, but this seems pretty straight forward. The nurse gave the wrong patient a painkiller that ultimately killed him.

“a nurse gave him the painkiller around midnight. The drug was supposed to be given to Bruce's roommate, who was a cancer patient.”

The patient who received the deadly dose was hospitalized for evaluation. He “was suffering from end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and had only a year to live” Bruce had a DNR “The hospital staff followed Bruce's living will, which directed them not to intubate him.”

Teaching patient advocacy I look for stories that bring the problem of patient’s safety to light. This surely does it. But this family wasn’t on the evening news, they weren’t awarded millions of dollars and they probably aren’t going to make changes because of their horrible experience. What kind of changes can be made if there already is a policy of checking the patient’s name and birth date every time you treat him, but the policy wasn’t followed?

We aren’t supposed to “blame” the nurse. She may have been overworked, exhausted or incompetent. But a patient is still dead because of what she did. “at the trial, the hospital's lawyer argued that the hospital should not be held responsible for Bruce's death because of the do-not-intubate order. The hospital's counsel also argued that Bruce did not suffer because OxyContin is a medication used to give dying patients comfort care."

This is the sort of discussion that is brought up around a trial. I wonder what the family thinks of all this.

As angry as this may make anyone reading this, the fact is that a trained advocate may have kept this from happening just by making sure the nurse followed procedure. We can't measure how many times a family or friend, at the bedside saved a life. We just know it happens.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Winner of the MITSS HOPE Award

Honoring Outstanding People Everywhere

I was nominated and won the MITSS HOPE award this year. I am on cloud nine - just floating after this wonderful evening of networking, sharing and making new friends. It is not “just” an award. This award has special meaning. I had 3 nominations! Jennifer Dingman, Sandra and Ed Gold and Jeff Cooper Ph.D. Jeff, I know as a brilliant man who has been in the patient safety industry before anyone of us nonmedical people ever heard the term. And Jeff was there to see me accept it. (photo right)

Linda Kenney, the Executive Director and founder of MITSS is a friend and a colleague. She started MITSS because of her own tragic experience during surgery and turned her organization into a partnership of healing for patients, families and the providers after an adverse outcome. The audience was filled with medical professionals, hospital administrators and community members who want to help make a difference.

Linda has taken time away from her own organization to see that others, doing similar work are recognized. The lack of competitiveness and commitment to patient safety shows the character of the woman behind MITSS and this award.

Finally, there was a very generous $5,000.00 check behind this award donated by RL Solutions. I spend hours and sometimes days writing grants for $5,000.00 for PULSE of NY just to be turned down and here, I just had to show up for a dinner! This is a company that not only says they support the work we all do in patient safety, but is willing to put their money up to prove it!

When I listened to Sanja Malaviya, President and CEO of RL Solutions (left)introduce me, and read off all that I have accomplished, it made me realize that I feel good about the work that I have done in the past 12 years to help improve patient’s safety, build partnerships and offer support to the patient, family and community who experience medical injury - or fear for their safety.

But, something was lacking in the introduction. The work that I have done and all my accomplishments have not struck Long Island or New York hospitals yet. The people I worry about most, and care for so deeply, have barely been touched by my work. I still don’t feel “safe” in our local hospitals when we do not have enough information locally about patient safety.

What are the safety measures and what can we, the community or customer of the health system do for our safety when using a local hospital? As I teach the public about patient safety and the need for partnerships, it seems like such a slow process. I may have been involved in the movement of patient safety but what are we all doing, in partnership, to keep us safe? As long as it’s a secret, we won’t know and we can't help.

Don’t you want to know?