Summer reading: Learning how to fly in a hospital

August 1, 2010

The author's suggested reading is a thin book titled, Why Hospitals Should Fly: The Ultimate Flight Plan to Patient Safety and Quality Care, which he says has the potential to change one's professional life.

The book, Why Hospitals Should Fly: The Ultimate Flight Plan to Patient Safety and Quality Care (Bozeman, MT: Second River Healthcare Press; 2008), is authored by John J Nance, a decorated Air Force and commercial pilot who is also a malpractice attorney. He has leveraged his dual backgrounds in aviation and liability law to become a major advocate for patient safety. Nance was a founding member of the American Medical Association's National Patient Safety Foundation.

The book is a fictionalized account of a physician, Will Jenkins, who is tormented by the needless death of his best friend's young son in a hospital that he directed. Haunted by his staff's blatant errors, he quits his job and undertakes a quest to find out why it happened and how it could have been prevented. His pursuit of a safer healthcare system takes him to St Michael's Hospital, a fictional Colorado institution that has become a paragon of patient safety.

Silverman argues that the only way to combat typical human fallibility is through collegial, interactive teams that display mutual caring and support as well as barrier-less communication. He explains that after a succession of horrific plane crashes in the 1970s and 1980s, every major commercial airline company in the world came to embrace team training, crew resource management, and the open sharing of mistakes and improved safety procedures. The parallels between the old pilot-centric aviation model and today's physician-centric healthcare model should be painfully obvious to all, but Silverman offers definitive answers to the still-heard arguments of Luddites that comparisons between the healthcare and airline industries are inappropriate because physicians don't die from their own negligence.