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Sorry Works! Blog

Making Disclosure A Reality For Healthcare Organizations 

Sexual Assault Victim, Oregon State Univ. Provide Powerful Example for Hospitals/Nursing Homes

brenda and edA friend recently sent me an article about a young woman who had been gang-raped by Oregon State University football players in the late 90's, the school and local prosecutors shoved the case (and the woman) under the rug...and then sixteen years later the school made the situation right. The victim, Brenda Tracy, had been unable to let go and was in therapy in 2014 when she contacted Oregon State University to talk about her case -- and got nowhere. So, she went to the media. Ed Ray, Oregon State's President, ordered an investigation, and three weeks later personally met with Ms. Tracy to deliver a tearful apology. But President Ray went even further...he hired Ms. Tracy to consult on sexual assault at the Oregon State Campus. Today, Ms. Tracy regularly speaks to and works with Oregon State sports teams and other student organizations to improve awareness and sexual assault prevention It's a powerful story and example.

A lot of parallels with this story and medical malpractice. Just like hospitals and nursing homes, many universities and colleges don't handle allegations of wrong doing in a proper manner. University administrators, worried about the image of their school and keeping rich donors happy, often bungle investigations and fail to stay connected with victims and their families or offer appropriate support. Follow through and tangible change are often completely missing. A lawsuit may follow and possibly a settlement, but the settlement usually only involves money (no apology or admission of fault) and typically freezes out a potential change agent: The victim. Take your money and get lost is the message.

Sound familiar?

So, you want to change your hospital, eh? Or really make your nursing home top notch? Well, your best resource is the patients and families you've harmed. Now, I know --- I know very well -- that not every patient or family is equipped for this work. Moreover, some folks may be a perfect fit but have no desire to participate. But, if you have an open heart and are willing to look you will find many people who are both equipped and willing to help your hospital or nursing home. Nothing sends a message to doctors and nurses like the following: "My name is XXX, I lost my mother at this, I am going to share with you my mother's journey through this hospital due to medical errors, and then we are going to talk about making sure this type of tragedy never happens again."

Moreover, don't be afraid to really involve patients and families. By "really involve" I mean more than sticking them on the back end of a patient safety committee overloaded with docs, nurses, and other in-house staff. Use these people....put them to work, and don't be afraid to listen to their ideas.

The Sorry Works! Tool Kit had many ideas and examples of how to include patients and families in your quality improvement processes. Click on this link to order the Tool Kit today.