Students tackle medical mistakes

Student competed to encourage participation between medical fields.

After two years of mismanaged asthma care, a 6-year-old Somali boy living in rural Wisconsin experienced a brain injury while receiving treatment for an asthma attack.

First-year medical student Travis Olives and three other students analyzed this fictitious scenario to secure a spot in the National Clarion Interprofessional Team Case Competition this weekend.

Clarion, a University student group, hosted eight other universities for its second annual case competition to improve patient safety. The University team did not make it to the final round.

Although the first-grader isn’t real, medical errors are. The Institute of Medicine estimated that as many as 98,000 deaths in the United States are caused by mistakes that occur within a health care facility.

Clarion, which is composed of students from the disciplines of medicine, nursing, pharmacy, public health and health care administration, is one of the first student groups to join the nationwide effort to prevent medical mistakes.

Alison Page, vice president of patient safety for Fairview Health Services, said the competition helps students build a sense of respectful appreciation for all professions and members of the care team.

“Clarion case competition helps students recognize and grapple with the complexity of health care issues and learn to appreciate the need for the involvement of all professional perspectives in addressing them,” she said.

The teams of three or four students from different disciplines had five weeks to prepare their presentation of the asthma case written by University health professionals.

Teams are judged on their expertise in the analysis of the failure, recommendations for change and financial justification for the recommendations.

Patrick Hays, one of four professionals judging the finalists, said he was impressed with the creative thought exhibited by the teams.

“They have different perspectives,” he said. “One team looks at a case from a clinical perspective; the other team from a clinical opportunity perspective.”

Olives said the prevention of medical errors is an important element of medical school.

“I find it enjoyable,” he said. “It is something that I believe is crucial to education at the (Academic Health Center).”

Master of health care administration student and Clarion board member Danielle Heffner said the cases start with patient safety but reach many areas.

“We play with such small things, and then we look at the bigger piece and realize what we’re trying to do,” she said.

Case analysis teaches students to approach errors from a systems-based perspective that eliminates blame, said Raed Abughazaleh, Clarion case competition co-chairman and a member of last year’s winning team.

He said the competition avoids pointing fingers at individuals because it’s a team effort in the medical field.

“It’s not individuals who fail; it’s systems that fail,” Abughazaleh said.

Freelance Editor Emily Kaiser welcomes comments at [email protected].