Reach for the Stars

Last Friday morning I said goodbye to Vicky and dropped Bessie and Stanley off at school.

We had a family hug and I told them I’d see them Saturday night. I hate being away from them. I then began my journey to Ireland.

I was to speak at the South West Hospitals Perioperative Conference in Cork on the Saturday morning. After 8 hours of taxis, trains and a scenic flight I arrived at my hotel. I was met with a good meal and comfy bed to rest.

I woke up the next morning ready to deliver my presentation. That morning myself and another speaker were to be collected by the Director of Nursing Bridie O’Sullivan.

I saw a lady waiting at the entrance of the hotel, “Are you speaking at the Conference this morning” I asked. She was and then she told me how she was a bereaved wife of a patient who had died due to complications during surgery.

From what I could gather this lady’s husband died because the surgeon had to the leave the operating theatre during her husband’s operation because another patient needed his immediate attention. As a result, both patients died.

This posed 2 very serious questions in my mind:

  • Are patients aware of the amount of distraction imposed on us in the operating theatre due to a lack of resources?

  • Are we as transparent as we should be?

At this moment any doubt I had about giving up my time with Vicky and the kids was eased.

I entered Cork Hospital and was greeted by one friendly face after another. A lady spoke to me and informed me how she had seen me speak at a Surgical Site Infection conference in the UK and it was by her recommendation I was speaking in Ireland. For her sake I was praying that I could deliver and speak the words I needed to make everyone’s time and money worthwhile.

The audience had given up their own family time and money for knowledge to make them better practitioners to give their patients a better standard of care; add this to the presence of a bereaved wife in the audience.... No pressure Rob!!

I was introduced by a Consultant Surgeon called Mark Corrigan who put me at ease straight away by his personable nature and the mention of my beloved Blackburn Rovers football team. I began my talk, my voice shaky as always (my nerves always do this to me). I spoke about how I was involved in a serious mistake in the operating theatre and how my hospital Trust learned from the mistakes and introduced the Below Ten Thousand concept. After a few minutes I was aware I had the audience’s attention. Some faces stand out and I try to pick one to look at from each corner of the room to help me connect with everyone.

Distraction is an issue that we are struggling to cope with in the operating theatre, whether this be the distraction we create ourselves or distraction imposed on us due to lack of resources. When I finished the presentation, it was evident I had connected with the audience and the Below Ten Thousand concept will grow in Ireland.

The applause and conversations I had afterwards emphasised how much needed the Below Ten Thousand concept is.

One lady even informed me they were thinking of putting a bell in the operating theatre she works in, which anyone could ring if there was too much noise and distraction. Below Ten Thousand will now replace the bell I am informed.

Shortly afterwards I left for my flight home. I was sorry that I couldn’t stay and listen to the speaker I met in the hotel entrance that morning. This lady paid one of the heaviest prices of distraction in the operating theatre.

Alone on the flight home I collected my thoughts. It is obvious why Below Ten Thousand is receiving so much attention due to patient safety being jeopardised by noise and distraction.

About 10,000 Feet high up in the clouds it dawned on me; Below Ten Thousand is a Shining Star!

The purpose of stars are to offer light in times of darkness and help us navigate.

I reached out to Pete Smith after a serious incident and he gave me light in a time of darkness. Below Ten Thousand offers to give light to all practitioners in the operating theatre when a darkness transcends due to noise and distraction. Below Ten Thousand also helps us navigate our way to the best patient outcomes we are aiming for.

This analogy reminded me of a conversation I had with a very well known pilot in the UK. I asked him “just how free from distraction are you really below ten thousand feet?” He replied “I’d love to tell you we are totally free from distraction but that’s not 100% true. What I will tell you is that there is nothing wrong with aiming to get 100% distraction free”.

That is exactly what Below Ten Thousand is, the brightest star you are aiming for; if you miss, you will still land somewhere very special!

Good luck Ireland!


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