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Preventing medical miscommunication means fewer medical errors

For a patient about to undergo surgery, a medical error is just about the last thing someone would want to worry about.

Upwards of 100,000 deaths occur in the United States each year because of medical mistakes. One of the biggest factors contributing to the problem is miscommunication or lack of communication between multiple health care professionals.

To address the problem, University of Minnesota health professional education programs are embracing the age-old mantra of learning to work together in class and competition.

When Christin Peterson, a nursing student enrolled in the U of M’s Master of Nursing program, arrived to the mock case of a heart failure patient, she was asked to assess. After considering the patient’s biological symptoms, medicine schedule, and turbulent financial and family situations, she made her recommendations – like a nurse.

“But just my viewpoint from the clinical side isn’t going to fix everything,” said Peterson, who plans to enter emergency medicine post-graduation.

As part of the U of M’s extracurricular program CLARION, Peterson and her team were tasked with improving not just a patient’s in-clinic care, but also the greater health care system and the challenges it might pose to recovery. The CLARION exercise helped students demystify behemoth health structures and encouraged future system change making through leadership. Understanding how future coworkers from other health disciplines view and attack problems was also a boon – especially for the students’ future patients.

Peterson worked alongside teammates occupational therapy student Liz Wick, and health care administration students Heidi Hayes and Brent Parsons to meld clinical and nursing care improvements with systems changes. The team’s final care-improvement recommendations were presented to a panel of judges at the University of Minnesota local CLARION case competition last month.

Of the many recommendations proposed by interprofessional teams of students in pharmacy, health administration, public health, medical school, nursing and more, Peterson’s team recommendations won. They were voted most likely to improve heart failure care at all levels – including the resolution of problems between care providers that might result in misdiagnosis, hospital-acquired infections, medication errors and more.

Talk about a great outcome!

Hear full recommendations from Peterson’s winning team this Saturday, April 12 when they compete as national finalists against other interprofessional student teams at McNamara Alumni Center.

CLARION case competition UMN winners

Photo: Liz Wick, occupational therapy; Christin Peterson, nursing; Heidi Hayes, health care administration; and Brent Parsons, health care administration, won first place in this year’s local CLARION case competition. They were awarded a $3,000 team scholarship from HealthPartners.

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