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Patient safety expert presentation on Oct. 18 marks 10 years service by Community Health Education Center

October 17, 2012

Patient and aviation expert John J. Nance takes on a sensitive topic in medicine: mistakes. 

In 1999, a landmark study from the Institute of Medicine found that between 44,000 and 98,000 people die from preventable medical errors every year. These findings encouraged medical professionals to re-evaluate their system and look for new ways to keep patients safer--even if it meant looking far outside the medical field. One source of information is Nance, a nationally respected expert on patient safety. VCU Libraries partners with the MCV Hospitals Auxiliary and the VCU Health System to bring him to Richmond this month for a free program.   

Nance will give a lecture on "Why Hospitals Should Fly" at the Kontos Medical Sciences Building Thursday, Oct. 18 at 6 p.m. Nance's lecture, derived from his 2009 book of the same name, examines the ways hospitals and medical professionals fail, and what they can do to catch their errors before patients are harmed, using lessons learned from the aviation industry. 

The lecture celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Community Health Education Center, the only consumer health library of its kind in Virginia. Please register online. 

A pioneer in medical and aviation safety, John J. Nance is a decorated U.S. Air Force and commercial pilot, and a founder of the National Patient Safety Foundation. His ideas about leadership, responsibility, transparency and accountability are part of the national conversation on how a team-centered approach can save lives, make patients safer and strengthen the performance of hospitals and clinics. Nance is the author of many books on best practices in human systems. He will discuss his book, "Why Hospitals Should Fly: The Ultimate Flight Plan to Patient Safety and Quality Care," which many see as a guide to the future of patient care.

A military and commercial pilot with more than 13,000 flight hours, Nance helped reform the aviation field, working to eliminate accidents from preventable errors. He applies the same techniques of increased teamwork, communication and better checklists to the medical field. 

But Nance said the biggest challenge that medical professionals face is in changing their culture, the belief that they cannot or should not make mistakes. "It's not just communication, it's a willingness to understand our propensity for human failure," said Nance. "Once we accept that these failure rates are a result of being human, and we accept that teamwork is the way to get around it. Then, we believe we can get to zero."

About John J. Nance Jr.: He holds a Juris Doctor and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Southern Methodist University and is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel. He is an aviation analyst for ABC News and the author of 19 books. In 1988, he began applying the techniques he used to improve aviation safety to the medical field. His most recent works, "Why Hospitals Should Fly" (2009) and "Charting the Course" (2012) focus on how hospitals can improve their patient care, especially involving medical errors. Nance collaborates with his wife, Kathleen Bartholomew, on his current and most recent work. Bartholomew is a registered nurse with a Masters in Nursing who also writes and speaks on improving patient care. They live in Seattle.

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