By Dr. James Merlino, President and Chief Medical Officer, Strategic Consulting
While flying home from the Press Ganey National Client Conference last week, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Thomas Lee was flying on the same plane on which a passenger lost consciousness. The man was unresponsive and pulseless.
Fortunately, because of the quick action of the flight crew and passengers, and the presence of two physicians and numerous nurses, the patient was quickly resuscitated using an automated external defibrillator (AED), which is standard equipment on all planes today.
Witnessed cardiac arrests are relatively common events in this country. Unfortunately, successful out-of-hospital rescues of those patients are not, even though AEDs are becoming increasingly common in many public areas, and bystander use of them has been shown to improve survival and neurological recovery of a patient suffering cardiac arrest.
Dr. Lee happens to be a cardiologist, but successful operation of a portable defibrillator does not require a cardiac specialist or even a medical professional. In fact, in his recounting of the events, Dr. Lee told me, “all I did was put the pads on, wait for the machine to tell me what to do, and when it said ‘push the button,' I pushed the button.”
Dr. Lee’s humility aside, that very action is what may have been the differentiator for this patient: the presence of someone—in this case a trained medical professional—who did not hesitate to push that button.
Hesitation to use an AED in a witnessed cardiac arrest can cost critical minutes—and there are no minutes to spare when it comes to cerebral circulation and the prevention of significant brain injury. Those minutes could be the difference between surviving and making a complete recovery.
During the National Client Conference, critical care physician Dr. Peter Pronovost, Sr. Vice President for Patient Safety and Quality, Director of the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality Johns Hopkins Medicine, challenged all of us to commit to making patient safety a priority by starting every day with the simple pledge, “I will,” and to complete that sentence with a verb that will make the patient experience safer, better and more respectful.
The purpose of this prompt, Dr. Pronovost said, is to remind us that we have the power to change attitudes, behaviors and actions that lead to improvement and that we must hold ourselves accountable for doing so.
Following Dr. Lee’s lead, let us all make the following “I will” pledge: “I will become familiar with an AED, and not hesitate to push that button if necessary.”