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Rethinking “it’s gonna be okay”

okayLast week I had the privilege of participating in a four hour course in a simulation center.  For those of you who don’t know what a simulation center is, it’s basically a learning environment that simulates medical scenarios using robots and technologies, with the end goal being to improve patient care and safety.   The audience was physicians and nurses in the Ob/Gyn field, since the course centered on a common problem encountered during labor and delivery. And then there I was–random scientist–there primarily as an observer (but I also got the chance to do a little role playing).

It was an unforgettable experience.  And there was a plethora of observations and take home messages—here are a few (I guess those of you following my blogs have figured out that I am a list-making type of person):

1-New methods of teaching (and the right teacher!) make all the difference in absorbing and retaining the information (and also enjoying the class).  We wrote on white boards, read to ourselves, worked in small groups, heard relevant anecdotes, moved from room to room, and took advantage of state-of-the-art computer, robotic, and audiovisual technologies.

2-The ability of doctor/nurse teams to react to and overcome medical emergencies is beyond astonishing.  I didn’t really appreciate this until I saw this in the simulation, as the real-obstetrician-playing-the-role-of-the-obstetrician was literally sweating and panting as she directed her team and exhausted her procedural options on a dummy until she achieved success.

3-Premeditated plans need to be in place to deal with crisis situations, and not just ones in the simulated or real hospital settings.  During the crisis, someone needs to assume the leadership role and assign roles to others. Communication has to be maintained throughout, with frequent and unambiguous updates.  When things have quieted down, the team needs to debrief, and they also need to debrief others involved.  Think about applying this model to mini-crises that happen at home or in the office.

4-There are words that should be said, and others that should be avoided, as they relate to the ramifications post-crisis.  Specifically, our teacher repeated and repeated that, during a “situation,” healthcare professionals should refrain from telling the patient that “it’s gonna be okay,” since it is confusing during an emergency and can open up the medical team to  litigation in the event that things don’t turn out okay.  For personal reasons, I immediately related to that piece of advice and wished more physicians could hear it.  And then, when I later that morning played the role of nurse-calming-the-woman (dummy)-in-labor…what was the first thing I said? IT’S GONNA BE OKAY! I knew it was my comforting (and novice) side talking, but I still felt like an idiot.

On that note, you may be thinking now, what does this blog post even have to do with genetics?  The answer is nothing at all.  I just wanted to share how valuable it is to be able to step into someone else’s world for just a short while, to gain an appreciation for what they do and even learn a new lesson or two.

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