May 22, 2011

Patient Safety in Iraq

I recently visited the Iraqi region of Kurdistan, both working with the International Federation of Medical Students' Association and arranging an interprofessional patient safety symposium for nursing- and medical students.

Iraqi Kurdistan is the northern region of Iraq with borders to Syria, Iran and Turkey. Given everything you hear in the media about Iraq and the war, I wasn't to sure what to expect, but what I did experience was a beautiful scenery, peaceful and friendly people and a well-functioning society.

The region has several nursing and medical schools, all fairly new and with a very international approach. The regional Minister of Health (a doctor) have been wanting to focus more on patient-doctor communication as well as patient safety, and it was on his request that we prepared the symposium covering these two topics. It was held on the afternoon on the 24th of April at the Ministry of Health.

We were not quite sure what issues the health professionals and students there had, so we started by asking some questions, and a lot of issues were raised. E.g: It is common to have consultations with up to 10 patients with the similar condition at the same time, not allowing much time to talk to the individual patient, hand hygiene, lack of guidelines, and a lack of educational resources, access to journals and evidence etc.

Based on this we chose to focus on practical tools, that the participants could use there and then, and that is one of the beauties of the IHI Open School courses. We took them through Patient Safety 101, and also introduced the "Check a Box-Save a life" campaign, and it generated a lot of interest. Some of the comments we got after the symposium were "I never thought I could do anything about safety myself" and "Why have we never heard about this checklist?". In other words, just keep up the good work in your campuses, it actually makes a difference.

- Jo Inge Myhre, medical student, University of Oslo