Harvard hospitals train residents on when to seek help from senior docs

Breakdowns in communication costs hospitals nearly $2 billion every year, and miscommunication between medical residents and attending physicians are a major driver of patient injuries and medical errors, particularly on nights and weekends when hospitals are sparsely staffed.

So four hospitals affiliated with Harvard Medical School now work with senior doctors to create an environment where residents feel comfortable enough to ask for help and provide specific guidelines for when they should kick a case up to a senior doctor. The training program aims to improve communication between residents and senior doctors, as well as patient safety, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The training program and improvements have been in the works since 2009, WSJ reported, when research found attending surgeons didn't communicate one in three patient events to surgeons.

The training program provides residents with cards outlining 15 scenarios that call for a senior physician, according to the article. But the training also emphasizes that residents shouldn’t view the cards as the only circumstances under which they should communicate with attending doctors, resident Joshua S. Jolissaint of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, told the publication.

"They really try to impress on us that no concern of a resident is ever unwarranted, and anyone, no matter where they are in the chain of command, can feel comfortable escalating care to someone more senior,” he said.

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