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Teaching teamwork to enhance patient safety

By Michelle Osmond

Imagine a child in hospital was given the wrong medication or too much medication. Now imagine you’re on the health care team that has to figure out what went wrong and how to make sure it doesn’t happen again. That’s the case study from the Patient Safety Interprofessional Education (IPE) Module that won Dr. Anne Kearney from the School of Nursing and some of her colleagues an award.

The Academy for Health Improvement (AHI) Duncan Neuhauser Award for Curricular Innovation encourages the development and dissemination of original curricular materials related to the teaching of improvement in health care.

“Patient safety is a timely and important topic in health care. Newfoundland and Labrador experienced two pivotal events in 2007 - the Commission of Inquiry on Hormone Receptor Testing and the Task Force on Adverse Health Events. The latter recommended that Memorial University implement interprofessional curriculum focused on patient safety. That’s when the undergraduate Patient Safety Interprofessional Education (IPE) module was developed,” explained Dr. Kearney, who is joint appointed to the Division of Community Health and Humanities in the Faculty of Medicine.

The Patient Safety IPE Module is based on evidence that when health care professionals communicate effectively and know how to work as a team, the quality of patient care increases. A total of 184 students in first year medicine, third year nursing (from both the main campus and Grenfell campus) and third year pharmacy participated in the patient safety module. Students were assigned to one of 20 interprofessional groups to participate in on-line discussions. The curriculum team developed a case study of a pediatric medication error where the physician, pharmacist and nurse all contributed to the adverse event so that no one health professional was to blame. Students were asked to review the case and reflect on a series of questions designed to emphasize the importance of working together as a team and what was required to create a culture of safety.

“I’m happy to report that students who took part had a significant attitude shift towards teamwork, adverse event reporting and documentation to improve patient safety,” said Dr. Kearney. “They also commented that their knowledge about patient safety had increased, along with the importance of the interprofessional team and the role of other health professionals in delivering safe patient care. That’s a big step towards better patient care when those students are out practicing.”

Dr. Kearney’s team also includes: Mary Bursey, Lynn Cooze and Ary Pevida, School of Nursing; Glenda Cunning, School of Nursing, Grenfell Campus; Carla Dillon and Amy Conway, School of Pharmacy; Tanis Adey, Paula Mullins-Richards, and Juanita Barrett, Faculty of Medicine; Pam King-Jesso and Heather Predham, Eastern Health; Brenda Kirby, Centre for Collaborative Health Professional Education; and Patricia McCarthy, PhD student. This is the second year in a row that a team from Memorial has won the award, which will be presented at the annual meeting of the AHI, on Dec. 6 in Orlando, Florida.