Over the last several years, I have had the opportunity to communicate with Dr. David Nash, MD, MBA, Dean, Jefferson School of Population Health, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA. I found Dr. Nash, upon receipt of my first email, to be, more than, gracious in responding.
The Jefferson School of Population Health - Health Policy Newsletter, June 2009, arrived in the mail today. As I looked at the first page, in bold letters read - “Losing My Dad”.- My heart fell. Although, I only knew Dr. Nash as a result of numerous email communications, my gut told me this man was sincere, as well as a very sensitive person to other people’s feelings, especially patients and the delivery of care they received. I could feel this in our communications. There were many words that Dr. Nash uttered that I could relate to as a daughter being there for a parent, as well as a daughter who had lost a parent who had been married for sixty years.
I immediately related to that which Dr. Nash was stating about his experience in the hospital. Over a period of many years, I, too, had experienced some of what Dr. Nash was stating. My father, also, suffered from a hospital-acquired infection which robbed months and months of quality of life away from him. A preventable infection. Additionally, there were many communcation problems resulting in problems. My father, 90 now, and doing well. However, I could relate, especially to what Dr. Nash experienced, to my mother’s many hospitalizations. I understood about the communication that Dr. Nash was talking about as I, too, experienced such when my mother was alive. She died, two months short of her 60th anniversary, after suffering in pain and agony for several years. Although Dr. Nash’s father did not die of a medical error, I believe that part of the reason my mother died was a lack of communication with health care providers e.g. physicians and their staff. Although she had wonderful, experienced and extremely trained physicians, it only takes one to stop the flow of good care.
My thoughts were focused on the loss of Dr. Nash’s father, as well as knowing that June 25th was World Patient Safety Day. I was on the World Patient Safety Day Election Committee that nominated Dr. Lucien Leape, the Father of Modern Patient Safety, as the recipient of the first Florence Nightingale and Dr. E. Codman Award. I thought, for a moment, and could only think of patient safety being, in Dr. Nash’s father’s case (1) preventing an acquired infection, and (2) having appropriate communication and organized discussion.
Also, as I read one paragraph, in particular, I felt a twinge. This twinge reminded me of all the patients that endured that which Dr. Nash did, and, as Dr. Nash stated, “As the number of consultants increased, the communication became more fractionated. Our non-system is so fragmented and poorly designed that I can only imagine the frustration encountered by family members without a clinical background during the hospitalization of a loved one.” Goodness! As I read this, those were my words that I had repeated for years. Having experienced so many negative situations in the health care setting, even though I was a nurse, I wondered how those family members survived who had no medical background. It was a dislocated system that, what I found, for the most part, did not encourage families to advocate for their loved ones when hospitalized, or in any medical situation. Providers had not yet bought into the reality that patients and their loved ones, have a right to question what is being done and to ask questions.
Dr. Nash has stated in his editorial “……..I am committed to helping to fix this mess so that other families will get a sense of patient-centeredness, better coordination of care, and better communication from their doctors and other caregivers.” This, hit home even harder for me, as I had experienced doctors telling me that I was interfering in a loved ones care, when I was only asking questions so that I could be more educated to ensure that safe care was being delivered. Dr. Nash, when speaking of his loved father and how he will guide him, further stated, “…..I will need to call upon these skills too, as we move forward with some of the possible solutions to fix our broken system.” My experiences, over the last twenty years, led me to becoming an activist to ensure that patients receive quality safe care.
There are many advocates, as myself, here to support Dr. Nash, in his endeavor to make a difference in the health care system, in memory of his father.
It is with sincere, and deep sympathy, that my thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Nash and his family during this time of loss and grieving. Dr. Nash will move forward to make a difference - in his father’s name.