Augustine of Hippo Quote Can Help Patient Safety- “I Err Therefore I Am”

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imagesI recently heard this quote in Author Kathryn Schultz’ TED Talk, On Being Wrong!  I love how it brings home the fact that I am humanly imperfect!  We are!   Absorbing it might help us with a paradox that we face in our high stakes healthcare system i.e. that of the need to be right as much as possible with the impossibility of being right all the time!  The science of safety uses the latter to promote checklists and systems’ designs to eliminate or at lease minimize human error.  Even standardizing communication, which is some of the valuable work that TeamSTEPPS is doing, is part of the science of safety.

In the talk, Schultz describes a surgical error and points to the assumption the surgeon has of being right.  Made me wonder if there were team-members that were assuming they were probable wrong?

How does this thinking help us with patient safety?  Well….by recognizing that as humans we are fallible, we can actually let ourselves BE human.  Think about how this can inform individual, team, and organizational behaviors!

  1. We can recognize that we need each other’s help and that our help will be valuable to others.
  2. We can let ourselves of the hook for being perfect.  (Stay on the hook for doing our best, but knowing our limits and speaking up about them is an important part of the art of safety!)
  3. Reflect on what attachments we might have to being right.  (Okay, yeah, I don’t like being wrong.  I have to work at keeping my being wrong from I’m being a bad person.  Now I can think, I’m wrong, I’m human! 🙂 )
  4. Open up the door to learning different ways of thinking about and doing things from others.  This is a benefit of diversity, right?
  5. We can speak-up about concerns even if we are not sure, because hey, we might not be.  Of course, we probably have to be careful not to gloat too much when we right especially if we have attachments.  Perhaps we can be creative about honoring each other when we speak up whether we’re right or wrong.  “Great suggestion, Beth thanks.  I’m not going to follow it because…”.
  6. We can become more adept at collaborative leadership by seeking input from others.

Would it surprise you to know that one of the principles of Medical Improv is to celebrate failure?  If any of the above seem challenging and most are for me, imagine what learning I’ve experienced when making mistakes in an improv activity and everyone claps!  This isn’t about promoting errors, it IS about promoting being human….together!  If individuals can be more comfortable with being wrong, teams and organizations are more likely to make right decisions!

I bet there are some errors in this post!  If you see any, let me know, I’ll fix them! 🙂

This entry was posted in Assertiveness, Communication in Healthcare, Complexity in nursing, Confident Quotations, Healthy Workplaces, Medical Improv, Nurse Entreprenuers, Nurse Leadership, Patient Advocacy, Patient Safety, Teambuilding and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Augustine of Hippo Quote Can Help Patient Safety- “I Err Therefore I Am”

  1. Rafidah Rasman says:

    This topic really brings up how important teamwork should be. I know this sounds pretty simple, however people still make light of it. However, thank you for bringing this topic up.

    • Beth_Boynton_RN_MS says:

      Thanks Rafidah. I think communication & collaboration can seem simple on the surface allows us to dismiss the value and difficulty of the underlying work we have to do to change individual and organizational behaviors.

What are your thoughts?