Why Aren't More Physicians at Patient Safety Conferences?

md and pt safetyThis will be a short blog post, with one question.  Why aren’t more physicians at patient safety conferences?  I am at one now in Canada, two hundred people were in the room.  When I asked how many were nurses over a hundred people raised their hands.  When I asked how many were physicians, guess how many hands went up?  Just two.  This happens everywhere I go.  Last week the same thing happened at an Interprofessional Education (IPE) meeting on the West Coast of the US.  Most patient safety conferences are populated with nurses, sometimes other health professionals, sometimes administrators.  But where are the MDs?  How can we have patient safety if the captain of the ship isn’t coming to the meetings and is not at the safety helm along with a real team as crew?   (Maybe, they just don’t want to hear me speak — always a possibility, except that I don’t think enough of them know about me to have an opinion about me one way or another)  Now maybe physicians will answer that they have their own meetings, physician only meetings that is. While I certainly hope that is part of the explanation (at least MDs are learning about patient safety somewhere),it is simply not good enough.  If physicians want to lead the healthcare team then they need to work on that team to construct safety models and be upfront and very visible at each and every venue where safety is discussed.  When physicians are absent, there is a message that is delivered.  That message is that higher-ups are giving lip-service to patient safety but won’t take the time and make the effort to make it a reality.

What do you think?  Why aren’t more physicians there?  What can we do to get them there?  Any ideas?

  • Michael Gardam

    I think there are probably several explanations. We do have our MD-centric meetings: physicians tend to shy away from non-physician centric meetings because of the belief that the content will not be relevant (possibly the same part of the brain that doesn’t read nursing notes??). We also tend to be attracted to meetings that have more of a research or clinical focus rather than organizational/teamwork foci. And I think we have the (misguided) belief that the route to safer patients involves different strategies rather than teamwork (databases, research etc.)

    All that said, we should be there.

Leave a Comment