How to do a quality improvement project: A Junior Doctor’s Initiative

“Hi everyone, I’m Sinead Milward, a junior doctor currently in intensive care. I’m passionate about improving patient safety, and that’s why I started these open discussion sessions for fellow junior doctors.

It all began after a mistake I made early in my career. Thankfully, it didn’t harm the patient, but it left me feeling ashamed and alone. I realized junior doctors might be going through similar experiences in silence. Talking about these mistakes openly, I thought, could help us learn and prevent them from happening again.

Getting buy-in wasn’t easy. The culture around mistakes wasn’t always supportive. But with backing from senior staff and the patient safety lead, I launched the sessions.

Here’s how it works: a junior doctor anonymously shares a past mistake. Together, we explore the contributing factors – was it stress, time pressure, or a system flaw? Then, we brainstorm solutions. For example, one common mistake was prescribing medication to patients with allergies. We realized busy ward rounds made it easy to miss allergy warnings. So, we suggested red allergy bands instead of white ones, and displaying allergy info clearly on patient beds.

These sessions create a safe space. Doctors share similar experiences and realize they’re not alone. It fosters a more positive approach to learning from mistakes.

Spreading this initiative has its challenges. A big organization like the NHS takes time to change. Getting others involved requires demonstrating the project’s value. The key? Keep it simple and focus on small, impactful improvements, like the red allergy bands.

The project perfectly fit a quality improvement model where we could make small changes each session and continuously improve. Before leaving my post, I ensured the sessions continued for both junior and foundation year doctors.

This project proves that even small changes can have a big impact on patient safety. It’s also shown me the power of collaboration in healthcare improvement. While my future plans include travel and exploring specialties, I’m sure patient safety will remain a core passion.”

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