May 25, 2012

Words, Words, Words

- Alex Anderson, Executive Assistant at IHI

Recently, I joined my family in remembering Harriet Berman. At Harriet’s funeral, her children celebrated her life in many ways. Among the many stories and reflections, one message stood out to me: Harriet deeply disliked the language used to describe the experience of being a cancer patient—being a victim of cancer. Fighting a Battle with cancer. Living as a Survivor of cancer.

Harriet did not like the implications of the language. Battling something implies there is a winner and a loser. It implies that if you’re fighting, and losing, then you are not fighting hard enough. If you could fight just a little harder, with stronger or better tools, you might survive a little longer.  

This immediately made sense to me. I never thought to question the ubiquity of the cancer-patient language. After thinking about the language, I was surprised that a conversation around it has not sprung up at IHI. I would like to start that conversation.

I do not know what the right language should be. I am sure there are many cancer patients who find the current language comforting, and I do not want to discredit any of the comfort they find in the language. However, I think we can do a better job understanding that different people may respond in different ways to the language we accept as normal.

How can we shift this conversation? What are the words and phrases that will enable us to provide support and encouragement to people facing difficult situations? I do not think that one wordsmith can find the right answer, but if we discuss this together, we may find a more inclusive way to support each other.

May 22, 2012

Focusing on Patient Safety in South Carolina

Susie Robinson & Amanda Hobbs, President and Vice President, Clemson University IHI Open School Chapter

The 5th annual SC Patient Safety Symposium, held April 25 in Columbia, SC, proved to be a valuable experience for both of us! We learned a lot about patient safety and had the opportunity to her many leading experts in the field.

(We would first like to thank the South Carolina Hospital Association (SCHA) for sponsoring our attendance and for its constant support of the IHI Open School Chapters in the state of South Carolina.)

Here’s a rundown of our experience:

-          We kicked things off by meeting with leaders within the IHI Open School community, including the members of University of South Carolina’s IHI Open School Chapter and our two Southeast Regional Coordinators. 

-          As the Symposium began, we took front row seats and listened to Maureen Bisognano, CEO of the Institute of Healthcare Improvement.  She first recognized our state for the strides South Carolina has made in decreasing health disparities between populations, especially in Columbia.  Bisognano spoke briefly about the Triple Aim and recognized areas for health care improvement.  Bisognano then introduced Regina Holliday, a painter and patient advocate who painted representations of both the provider and patient perspective throughout the conference.

-          Next, Dr. Atul Gawande spoke about the future of Safe Surgery 2015, and the progress of South Carolina as a pilot state. 

-          After a short break, Dr. Eric Coleman from the University of Colorado spoke about the Care Transitions Program.

-          At lunch, the few students in attendance were recognized and the Lewis Blackman Patient Safety Awards were presented to honor deserving individuals from around the state. (The lunch, accompanied by the South  Carolina Philharmonic Orchestra, was delicious.)

-          As our day wrapped up, we were fortunate to spend some time talking with Maureen, Dr. Rick Foster, SCHA Vice President of Quality and Patient Safety, our IHI Open School Regional Coordinators, and patient advocate Helen Haskell (Lewis Blackman’s mother). 

We are grateful we had this opportunity through our involvement with IHI Open School!

IHI CEO Maureen Bisognano poses with faculty and students
at the 5
Annual SC Patient Safety Symposium in Columbia, SC.