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Patient Safety Awareness Week – A Book Review of “Your Patient Safety Survival Guide: How to Protect Yourself and Others From Medical Errors”

Seeing as though today is the final day of Patient Safety Awareness Week, I thought this would be the perfect time to present my review of a highly acclaimed book on patient safety and healthcare. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a pretty avid reader. I will read just about anything and everything, just as long as it appeals to my emotions and/or experiences at any given time. Given that my life currently consists of ongoing medical appointments and other healthcare management tasks, most of the supplemental reading I’ve been doing over the last few years (outside of assigned reading for school and keeping up with pertinent medical journals) has primarily consisted of self-help books relating to chronic illness, psychology, and navigating the medical system. So, when I was given the opportunity to review Your Patient Safety Survival Guide: How to Protect Yourself and Others from Medical Errors by Gretchen LeFever Watson, I was extremely elated. Although I had originally planned to take advantage of this opportunity during winter break from school since I knew that I would be recovering from a total hysterectomy and would be looking for things to do while stuck in bed, I am honestly kicking myself for not clearing some time in my schedule prior to surgery because I could have really used this information before my own patient safety was put at risk.

For those of you who are unaware, I was scheduled to have a total hysterectomy on December 8, 2017, using the da Vinci Robotic method in order to rectify the excessive and erratic bleeding that started as a result of complications from late-onset endometrial ablation failure following my NovaSure procedure in 2015. Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a “minimally invasive” procedure with “minimal scarring” and a “quick recovery period” turned into this mess…

Hysterectomy Scar Resulting in Injuries Caused by the da Vinci Surgical System

Photo by Undiagnosed Warrior (2017). Hysterectomy Scar Resulting in Injuries Caused by the da Vinci Surgical System [Image].

… but I will go into more details of this tragic event at a later time. Needless to say, it would have been far more helpful to have read this book before I actually needed the helpful tips supplied in the pages of Your Patient Safety Survival Guide.

The first thing I want to mention before reviewing the content of this novel is that I found myself drawn to this book simply because the author’s personal and professional background intrigued me. From a professional standpoint, Dr. Gretchen LeFever Watson holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and has held a variety of training and leadership positions in hospitals and community-based healthcare programs. Not only has she received numerous awards and grants for her research, but her work has also generated a great deal of media attention and recognition from other subject matter experts in the fields of psychology and healthcare as well (Watson, 2017). This is in addition to publishing two other patient safety books along with Your Patient Safety Guide and several peer-reviewed research papers. Considering that the author is clearly well-versed and has a long-standing history of working within both the past and current structure of the American medical system, I knew she would offer a great deal of insight from the professional side of health care. The fact that Dr. Watson has also been an advocate for patient safety and wellness from personal experiences as both a caregiver for her mother and as a parent when a medical error almost took her daughter’s life at the young age of only four-years-old made me think that her opinions would likely represent a more balanced perspective overall (Watson, 2017). As someone with multiple chronic and rare conditions, and a student studying for a degree in clinical psychology that has also spent many years working in veterinary medicine prior to disability myself, I was definitely interested in reading her perspective on some of the issues currently plaguing the safety and care of patients. Thankfully, this book did not disappoint.

Aside from the fact that each chapter of Your Patient Safety Survival Guide covered a wide breadth of obstacles in receiving adequate medical care (e.g., safety habits and best practices, avoidance of medication errors and overprescription of dangerous medications, and the prevention of infections and common medical injuries that can occur as a result of human error, negligence, malpractice, and purely bad luck), the thing that I liked most about this book is that every topic discussed in the text provides readers with an eclectic explanation illustrated through research statistics and patient examples. Chapter 1, for instance, notes some shocking statistics that suggest “at least 440,000 patients die needless deaths in US hospitals each year” and the “initial estimate of the financial impact of the patient safety crisis indicated it totaled around $5 billion annually, about one-quarter of which involves out-of-pocket expenses” (Watson, 2017, p. 7-8). While these numbers are obviously alarming, the author prevents hysteria or anxiety over such occurrences by putting the situation into a more realistic perspective by detailing the potentials causes of medical error and offering ways to combat it as either a patient receiving care or professional providing care.  In this way, the author is avoiding labeling the problem according to a single source but rather a complex, systematic problem that can result in an infinite number of breakdowns within the medical system itself. Personally, I find this account refreshing because it first acknowledges the problem, without placing blame on either the patient or medical professionals specifically, and then it explains the how and why medical errors happen. It also makes it easier for the reader to accept the information before the author moves on to discuss her own recommendations and potential solutions for resolving the problem at hand. Nevertheless, one factor that distinguishes this book from many other patients and/or chronic illness texts is that Dr. Watson wrote the content of this book to equally address a combined audience of both patients (or their family members) and medical professionals alike.

Another important element of Your Patient Safety Survival Guide that I found relatively helpful is that each chapter presents the reader with either a tool that can help them measure and target goals relating to different variables of patient safety or an action plan that can minimize the potential for common medical mistakes. Although most of the tools and guidelines presented in this book are based on logic and common sense, I can personally attest to how easy it is to forget even the simplest of things, especially when you’re anxious about an upcoming surgery or procedure, concerned as to whether the physician will take your medical complaints seriously or not, or you’re just simply distracted by pain or other symptoms. In these cases, simpler is almost always going to be better in the long run anyways, although some of the planning tools and safety tips were also new to me as well. Still, the biggest takeaway that I got from reading this book came from the seventh and final chapter entitled Acceptance, Apology, and Forgiveness: Safeguard the Lives of Patients and Healthcare Providers. One of the reasons that this specific chapter stood out to me the most is that the end of this book overly emphasizes the fact the doctors and other healthcare providers are only human and, therefore, they’re liable to make mistakes just like anyone else. As Watson (2017) points out, “we all make errors. Our errors rarely result from the willful disregard for others. Factors beyond the control of providers often influence the emergence of error, and, when errors occur, providers are often in need of compassion – just like event’s primary victims” (p. 140-141).

With my own significant complications resulting from a major medical error fresh on my mind, the stories and information shared within these final pages clearly hit too close for comfort on a number of occasions. In many ways, it would have been easier to blame the surgeon and his support staff who performed my hysterectomy for everything. Lord knows that I had plenty of good reasons to rightly justify my anger and hatred over the situation, but what good would that have done in the end? Being angry about it wouldn’t make me feel better or allow me to heal any faster; yelling at the doctors and the hospital staff also wouldn’t prevent similar mistakes from happening to other patients in the future. Though it’s far more comfortable to blame the doctor when things don’t go as planned, it’s equally as hard to accept that it’s rare for patients to consider the harm we inflict on medical providers by establishing unrealistic expectations regarding our health care wants or needs. This is another reason why I really enjoyed reading this chapter because I liked that Watson (2017) discusses both the physiological and psychological impact that medical errors have on both the patient and their families, as well as the significant damage and stress that these faults can have on healthcare providers and facilities. Once again, it’s easy to forget that doctors and their support staff already feel the train and the pressure simply from completing the tasks they were trained to do in the first place. On the other hand, there will always be those few providers who tend to forget that patients are also human and just as fallible as they are themselves. Watson (2017) describes the apparent divide amongst patients and professionals best by suggesting that the biggest flaw in the wake of a major medical error or mistake occurs when the lines of communications are closed off, such as when full disclosure about the nature of the error is avoided in order to favor one’s pride instead.

In the end, there really isn’t too much more one could ask for in a single book regarding patient safety and healthcare, but if I had to choose one thing to criticize about any part of this book it would have to do with the fact that some of the chapters offer a rather viewpoint on the use and/or abuse of stimulants and opioids for managing chronic symptoms or pain. However, this is just my personal perspective based on taking these (or similar) drugs in order to manage my own symptoms either in the past or present, in addition to considering alternative opinions from other chronic illness patients who have also dealt with the medical system for an expansive period of time as well. Even if I don’t necessarily agree with all of the author’s personal and professional opinions as deliberated throughout Your Patient Safety Survival Guide, I still respect and appreciate the author’s judgments on these topics as she does support her logic using mainstream facts and theories regarding these types of medications. I am also very much appreciative of Dr. Watson’s willingness to devise solutions to the problems in healthcare and patient safety rather than focusing on the inadequacies of the system alone. I really do believe that this book – and Dr. Watson’s research and safety initiatives for patient care – will prove beneficial for anyone engaging in any part of the medical system to some degree. More importantly, I would highly recommend this book to anyone managing a chronic or rare disease since we are among the most vulnerable population of victims exposed to potential medical mishaps as we are routinely asked to put our faith, trust, and livelihood in the hands of practitioners of medicine.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of Your Patient Safety Survival Guide: How to Protect Yourself and Others from Medical Errors, please visit one of the following online retailers:

https://www.amazon.com/Your-Patient-Safety-Survival-Guide/dp/1538102099

https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781538102091/Your-Patient-Safety-Survival-Guide-How-to-Protect-Yourself-and-Others-From-Medical-Errors

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/your-patient-safety-survival-guide-gretchen-lefever-watson/1126025512

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Gretchen_LeFever_Watson_Your_Patient_Safety_Surviv?id=XQglDwAAQBAJ

References:

Brown, A., Demyan, A., & Agha, S. (2014). Research on Victimization Among People with Disabilities. Retrieved from https://www.nij.gov/topics/victims-victimization/Documents/violent-victimization-twg-2015-browne-demyan-agha.pdf.

Cleveland Clinic (2018). Hysterectomy: What You Need to Know. Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/4852-hysterectomy-what-you-need-to-know.

Drugwatch (2018). Da Vinci Surgical System. Retrieved from https://www.drugwatch.com/davinci-surgery/

Good Reads (2016). Gretchen LeFever Watson. Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15244917.Gretchen_Lefever_Watson.

Watson, G. L. (2017). Your Patient Safety Survival Guide: How to Protect Yourself and Others from Medical Errors (1st ed.). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Wortman, M. (2017). Late-onset endometrial ablation failure. Case Reports in Women’s Health, 15, 11-28. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.crwh.2017.07.001.

The Blogger Recognition Award

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The Blogger Recognition Award comes to me from  SpoonieMom from A Spoonie’s Tale. Thank you so much for nominating me for this award.

Rules-and-regulations

The rules of this award are:

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.

2. Write a post and display the award.

3. Share in your post a brief history of how your blog started.

4. Give advice to new bloggers.

5. Nominate other bloggers you feel deserve the award.

6. Let each blogger know that you have nominated them.

 

How it all began

I started  Undiagnosed Warrior as more of a personal journal that friends and family could read as a way to keep up with my search for a medical diagnosis. Although I had been searching for a diagnosis fto my unexplained symptoms for about  five or so years prior, although it was to a much smaller extent than what was eventually going to come with starting my care at one of the top-rated hospitals in the country. Even beforehand, though,  I had spent much of my childhood and teenage years going from doctor to doctor  but had been met with a great deal of opposition from the medical community since I was a young, highly productive female with nonspecific symptoms that varied substantially from day-to-day – and from one year to next. Nevertheless, I had never imagined that my blog would turn into what it has over the last year and a half, nor did I think my blog would lead me to all the opportunities it has, such as becoming a part of an amazing community and being able to “meet” so many strong, intelligent individuals who had gone through exactly what I had gone through. Essentially, the Undiagnosed Warrior Blog has taught me how to not only advocate for myself but for others as well. It gave me the ability to learn and seek out more information. It provided me support when I felt alone. Ultimately, it’s what led the way to my diagnosis – actually, multiple diagnoses – some of which were so rare that I’m not sure any of them would have  been found without the help of everybody in the blogging community and on the Facebook support pages. So thank you!

It’s because of this blog and my followers that I continue to remain strong and I’m determined to bring awareness to the injustices and difficulties that result from the current state of our medical systems. It’s not in our heads and our symptoms are real –  we will prove it! (although it’s a shame that we have to…)


I am not a “professional blogger” by any means, so really the only advice I can share is to keep telling your story – to anyone or anybody that will listen. Personally, I think  the more we talk about chronic, invisible, or undiagnosed illnesses , the more likely  other people will begin to understand where we’re coming from and how hard life truly is for all those who are suffering. With time, my hope is that the stigma of chronic illness or pain will be removed from society and we’ll gain additional support us in nearly the same way that the public has become tolerant of other forms of illness or disability.

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Again, huge shout out to Spoonie Mom from  A Spoonie’s Tale. When you get a moment, check out her blog as she offers such good information about living with a chronic illness and how to make self-care important.


I would like to nominate the following blogs for the Blogger Recognition Award.

(Of course, they are under no obligation to participate.)

  1. Finding Life’s Silver Sun
  2. crazyphatmommy
  3. MSnubutterflies
  4. Kelly Alive
  5. fibronacci
  6. Midnight Knitter
  7. Polishing Dookie
  8. Strange Label
  9. SassaFrassTheFeisty
  10. WorktheDream

 

It’s Alright Not to Feel Okay…

For the most part, I try to stay positive about what I post on this blog. But, as most of you already know, life with a chronic illness is hard and it is definitely not always sunshine and rainbows as one might think – although I do believe that both would make things slightly easier to handle, don’t ya think? Nevertheless, there are just some things that come along with living “the sick life” that truly shake you to the core sometimes. For me, it’s hearing about other patients that have the same (or similar) diagnosis and have passed away as a result. I posted the following on my personal Facebook page a little while ago but felt it was important to share on this page as well. Sometimes you just have to say what’s on your mind because it’s good for the soul. In a way, venting allows me to grieve – not only on behalf of those that have passed but also for myself.


Sometimes I get so tired of hearing about my fellow warriors dying because their pain was not taken seriously or they couldn’t find the help that they needed. It’s becoming way too common lately and just thinking about how others have been treated because of their illness – hell, how I’ve been treated at times – makes me both physically and emotionally sick.

Trust me when I say that majority of people can’t even begin to comprehend the level of pain that those of us with vascular compressions live with each and every day. Or how much has been lost as a result of illness? Although I don’t necessarily agree, I can absolutely understand why many have chosen to take their own life.

Honestly, I’ve been lucky. It took a lot to just simply survive. Being misdiagnosed could have killed me. So could have all the wrong medications, treatments, and surgeries that have been offered to me along the way. I had to educate myself and challenge my care at every single step along the way. I’ve had to stand up to my doctors. I’ve had to fire some doctors. I’ve had to prove myself over and over again – prove that I was, in fact, sick; that I wasn’t imagining the pain – just so that my concerns would be heard and taken seriously. So that someone would help. Basically, I’ve had to fight with every bit of strength left inside of me just to get to where I’m at today – and no, I’m not better yet.

Obviously, this hasn’t been easy and I’m still in pain almost every day. Yet, somehow, I still hear that I’m not actually sick or that I’m not sick “enough”, even though test after test show’s that something’s seriously wrong and has been for a while. Eventually, something has got to give in the way we do medicine, especially when it comes to managing chronic or rare conditions. The gender bias in treating young women needs to stop as well.

No, it’s not anxiety! It’s not depression! And it’s definitely not in my goddamn head! These conditions are real and you would know that if you took a minute to listen.

Mostly, though, I’m angry – angry that this is somehow okay; that this is acceptable. I’m also incredibly sad as well. These tragedies could have been avoided. Most of these deaths are senseless. Something could have been done. The worst part, however, is that nobody cares. I repeat: nobody gives a damn.

Do you think the doctors cared when they heard that their patient had died? I doubt it.

Do you think the friends or family members who left when the person became ill and couldn’t get out anymore really cared? Not enough, obviously.

What about all the other people in their life who judged them, told them to try harder – to do more – to be more- to stop being lazy? Do you think they cared at all, really?

I cared, though… I still care.

Part of this is selfish, though, because I think about how easily that could have been me – and could still be me someday. I hear about the others just like me dying so frequently lately that the idea of death no longer scares me – it’s just par for the course at this point. How sad is that? I tell you, having a chronic illness makes you jaded.

I’m really trying not to be negative, but I’m so incredibly frustrated and disgusted that I just needed to vent. I just hope someone out there is listening.

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Whenever you need or want somebody to listen, I’m here. Just send me a message either here or on the Undiagnosed Warrior Facebook Page – I’d be more than happy to hear your story anytime.

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suicide

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Magnet, SVP05-0126

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Magnet

Please keep fighting fellow warriors!

GARD: Tips for the Undiagnosed

Here’s a great tutorial from the Genetic and Rare Disease Information Center at the NIH with various tips and resources available for individuals still searching for a diagnosis.

 

You can also visit the GARD Website for more information and links. Their website is https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/resources/pages/24/tips-for-the-undiagnosed

Today is Undiagnosed Day – April 29, 2016!

A Message from the Rare and Undiagnosed Network Wesite:

What does “Undiagnosed” mean?

“An undiagnosed disease is a medical condition without a known cause despite a lot of evaluation.”

What is Undiagnosed Day?

Undiagnosed Day takes place on the last Friday of April each year. The main objective of Undiagnosed Day is to raise awareness among the general public and decision-makers about undiagnosed diseases and their emotional, physical and financial impact on the lives of the patients and their families.

The campaign targets primarily the general public and also seeks to raise awareness among policy makers, public authorities, industry representatives, researchers, health professionals and anyone who has a genuine interest in undiagnosed diseases and genetics. Since 80% of rare and undiagnosed diseases have identified genetic origins, it is imperative to raise awareness for the importance of genetics in the diagnostic odyssey of undiagnosed patients.

#UndiagnosedDay

We created the Undiagnosed ribbon from Ava Szajnuk’s drawing. Ava is eight years old and Undiagnosed. Since zebras represent the rare community, we envisioned having a zebra ribbon with baby blue and baby pink colors added to it. Undiagnosed community is a part of the rare community but they stand alone as well. All rare diseases were once Undiagnosed.

Help us raise awareness for Undiagnosed Day on April 29, 2016.

Thank you for your continued support of the Undiagnosed community.

Please email gina@rareundiagnosed.org if you would like to join our Undiagnosed Alliance.

Gina Szajnuk
RUN Co-founder and Executive Director
RUNmyDNA Co-founder
Utah Rare 2016 Committee Chair
NORD Utah State Ambassador
W http://www.rareundiagnosed.orghttp://www.runmydna.comhttp://www.utahrare.orghttp://www.rarediseases.org
E ginaszajnuk@gmail.com – gina@rareundiagnosed.org – gina.szajnuk@rareaction.org
P (310) 883-4353

(Retrieved from http://rareundiagnosed.org/undiagnosedday-governor-herberts-declaration-april-29/)