Editor’s Notebook: Patient Safety Communities


May / June 2008

Editor’s Notebook

Patient Safety Communities

Like enthusiastic schoolchildren bubbling with friendly competition for attention, a room full of CEOs and other executives vied for time on the microphone to share their problems, success stories, and questions about improving the safety and quality of care delivered in their institutions. It was extremely refreshing and all the more extraordinary given that this CEO session ran from 4:30 to 7 pm on the last day of very busy 3-day conference. For that matter, the whole conference — the 2nd Annual International Patient Safety Congress sponsored by the Turkish Patient Safety Association, held in Antalya, Turkey, in late March — was out of the ordinary for me.

Some quick numbers indicate the breadth and complexity of the event: over 700 attendees representing 63 countries, 70 speakers representing 25 countries, one full day of plenary presentations, followed by two days of four concurrent program tracks with half-hour presentations from 9 am until 6 pm. The conference was held mostly in English with simultaneous translation into Turkish and Russian, and into English when necessary.

I learned a lot about patient safety and quality-related issues in other countries, but as I returned home my first reflections were about the sincerity and enthusiasm of the attendees. The Turkish people are generous, gregarious, and deservedly proud of their beautiful and deeply intriguing land and culture. Those characteristics were reinforced by the nature of people of all nationalities who attended because they are committed to improving patient safety. Helen Hughes, of the WHO World Alliance for Patient Safety, reminded me that the patient safety community is unusual. The individuals of course are dedicated and professionally accomplished, but there is an authentic emotional commitment and often an ability to make sincere, emotional connections that distinguishes this community, not just in Antalya, but wherever it gathers.

Another factor that contributed to the quality of the personal connections at this event was a strong showing of Patient Safety Champions — individuals who have participated in workshops held by the Patients for Patient Safety initiative of the WHO World Alliance and who comprise a unique community within a community.

I am very proud to say that Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare was well represented in Antalya by authors and Editorial Advisory Board members Marty Hatlie, Lindsy Strait, and — new to the Board with this issue — Steve Powell. We all contributed presentations, with Marty presenting 5 times officially and many more times informally as he responded to constant questions. We were all interviewed by various Turkish television crews and newspaper reporters.

Many who attend these conferences ride an adrenaline rush for a week or two after returning home, but this one provided me with learning and “turning points” that feel unusually significant. I hope to return to Antalya next March for the 3rd Annual Patient Safety Congress. If you’d like to learn more, let me know, or visit www.patientsafetycongress.net.