An Empowered Patient
Are you curious about what happens to survivors of adverse events in the Canadian health care system? Some focus on the future trying to leave what happened to them in the past so that they can adjust to their new sense of normalcy and once again begin enjoying their life. Others become determined to drive changes in our health care system to help prevent adverse events from occurring in the first place. A few survivors try to do both.
In 2005, Rhonda Nixon entered the hospital for a diagnostic procedure that, if all went well, would have her back on her feet with little inconvenience. When things did not go well, Rhonda found herself in the middle of a medical misadventure with little information about what had caused the complications. Following life-threatening adverse events and a year of misinformation from her health care providers, Rhonda felt she had no choice but to search for her own answers, information and resources.
It has been a difficult path of discovery and healing, one that Nixon would like to help other people avoid if possible. After her recovery she realized “There had to be a better way to work with and communicate with health care professionals before, during and after a stay in the hospital.” Her personal experiences in the health care system have led to a deep interest in the issues of patient safety, disclosure of adverse events and errors in health care.
Nixon decided to provide others with information that would help them avoid some of the same situations that lead to her medical ordeal. In November 2009, she organized “The Empowered Patient Conference: Including the Patient in Patient Safety” in Nanaimo, British Columbia to highlight Canadian Patient Safety Week. The one-day conference focused on creating a greater awareness of patient safety issues and providing participants with the information and knowledge needed to make them better advocates. With minimal pre-conference media attention, 175 people attended the event to listen and learn from a variety of speakers including two special keynote speakers from the United States. “The systems may be different but the issues surrounding patient safety are the same,” says Nixon who first contacted Helen Haskell, Founder and President of Mothers Against Medical Error and Dr. Julia Hallisy, Founder and Author of The Empowered Patient. The two women, who co-founded The Empowered Patient Coalition work towards improving patient safety by providing people with information and resources for improving their medical experiences.
Conference participants found the event provided them with valuable information and indicated their desire for Nixon to hold similar events in the future. “(It) Gave hope for change and better health options. A good rounded representation of medical and non-medical speakers,” said one of the attendees. For Nixon, the conference shows that patients and health care providers need to work together toward positive outcomes. The Empowered Patient Conference has laid the groundwork for a new website and future workshops. Watch for upcoming articles on empowered patient Rhonda Nixon.