New patient safety course begins with emotional presentation

The story of a local family who lost their son last year because of a series of medical errors in a Shands at UF clinic is resonating with the members of the UF College of Medicine Class of 2012.

Speaking during “patient safety grand rounds” on Oct. 29, parents Horst and Luisa Ferrero talked about how the death of their son Sebastian in October, 2007, drastically changed their lives. The presentation helped kick off a new, four-year patient-safety curriculum at the College of Medicine aimed at preventing harmful medical errors.

Photo by Priscilla Santos

Members of the Class of 2012 filled the auditorium in the Medical Science Building to hear more about patient safety. Photo by Priscilla Santos

“This course is vital towards giving us the right perspective in patient care,” said Daniel Lodwick, a first-year medical student. “I honestly don’t know how other classes have gone without it.”

Although other schools have developed comprehensive patient-safety curriculums, members of the UF College of Medicine believe their curriculum is “definitely unique,” said Marvin A. Dewar, M.D., J.D., associate dean for continuing medical education and vice president for Affiliations and Medical Affairs at Shands HealthCare.

“I don’t believe such an integrated, longitudinal program that spans all four years exists at another medical school,” he said. “The curriculum should be looked at as a model for other medical colleges.”

The Gainesville couple asked the students to learn from the mistakes that resulted in their son’s death and encouraged them to consider five important points:

  • Treat every patient with compassion, courtesy and dignity.
  • Give every patient the time and attention they deserve.
  • Listen to parents. They know their child better than anyone, and they are speaking on their behalf.
  • Work as a team with your colleagues and staff. Patient safety is everybody’s responsibility.
  • Don’t assume that others have already checked; double-checking can save lives.

“Losing a child feels like dying,” Luisa Ferrero told a packed auditorium in the Medical Science Building. “You have to learn to walk again.”

Following grand rounds, first-year medical students discussed the Ferreros’ talk in small groups.

“With physicians being forced into seeing more patients per day, pressure is added to move quickly with patients,” Lodwick explained. “Our group realized the importance of setting quality standards before getting out and practicing in order to avoid shortchanging patients out of the care they deserve.”

The four-year curriculum begins with the Class of 2012 but doesn’t stop there. The patient-safety curriculum committee is identifying ways to incorporate its patient safety education into the curriculum of the second, third and fourth-year medical students, said Omarya Marrero, president of the 2009 medical class and a member of the curriculum committee.

“Otherwise, you have a missed opportunity with 350 students,” she said.