Quality and Safety in Healthcare

CgfQdjgW8AAsKPxI was recently given the invitation by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) to give a keynote presentation at the International Forum on Quality & Safety in Healthcare. The Forum took place in Gothenburg, Sweden and the audience consisted of 3,300 healthcare professionals who are making an impact in quality improvement and patient safety.


The mission of the International Forum is to support the movement for healthcare improvement, to improve outcomes for patients and communities, provide practical ideas that can be implemented in the workplace, promote research into quality and safety improvement, and connect healthcare leaders and practitioners worldwide. These aims are met by bringing together a very international group of people that range from chief executives and government officials to healthcare managers and clinicians who share a concern and a passion for improving quality and safety in healthcare.


My presentation was based on my healthcare advocacy along with my personal experiences of being a former ICU patient and the three year journey it took for me to make a full recovery. During my time as a patient, I was inspired by the level of care I received from my healthcare providers, and this treatment inspired me to want to speak on behalf of the patient experience when I left the hospital in 2004.


Over the years, I have been presenting on this topic hundreds of times within the United States in order to improve the experience for not only other patients and their families, but also the care providers looking after them. Back in the summer of 2004, my goal was just to survive, but now it is more than that. It is about being a voice for patients and families as they go through their journeys in the hospital.


It was very exciting to be able to speak and visit with so many international healthcare professionals from a variety of background because I was able to listen to their experiences and backgrounds regarding measures they’re taking to improve quality and safety. As a former patient, this was a meaningful discussion to be a part of and witness firsthand.


Every patient has a story and an experience, and healthcare providers all over the world are in a position to help navigate their patients throughout their personal journeys of healing. You walk into the patient’s room and the goal is to, first, treat the body, and then, heal the person. You do everything in your power to help treat the injuries, symptoms, disease, and then you go about healing them by making a connection with them, communicating to them, and showing empathy and compassion. When you do this, you are not only focusing your efforts on quality and safety in healthcare, but you are also improving the patient experience.

The Power of the Voice Is Amplified When the Message Is of Gratitude


My path to the medical field began one month after I graduated high school in 2004 when I was an ICU patient. I was coming home from swim practice and was involved in a near fatal car accident with a speeding dump truck. The impact of the crash violently ripped my heart across my chest, shattering my ribs, clavicle, pelvis, collapsing my lungs, damage to practically every major organ, kidney and liver failure, removal of spleen and gallbladder, 60 percent blood loss, severe nerve damage to my left shoulder and in a coma on life support for over two months.

During my time in the hospital, I was very coherent during my comatose state.  I couldn’t talk, move or communicate, but my senses were highly tuned into this environment because that is all I had to obtain information on my surroundings.

With all the sadness that we were facing as a family throughout the hospital phase, there were some good things happening as well, even though they rarely occurred during this stage.  One of those amazing days came when I was able to learn how to talk again — a day my parents and I will never forget.  After several attempts to get me to say a few syllables, one lucky day it just happened out of nowhere.  My respiratory therapist attached a speaking valve, and I tried to sound out a few words and all of a sudden I began talking.  All the nurses and doctors came running in and they all broke out in tears when they saw me. I thanked each and every one of them as soon as I saw them. My parents came running around the corner because they had just arrived for visiting hours, and they were awestruck.  I told my dad that everything was going to be okay, and he couldn’t keep his composure and just burst into tears. As for my mom, I don’t think she stopped crying for the entire two months that I was in there, but at least in that moment, these were tears of joy.

I became a public speaker as a way to say thank you to my healthcare team at Prince George’s Hospital Center and to my Red Cross blood region in Baltimore.  My story and healthcare message spread across the nation following the presentations that I gave at the Maryland Hospital Association and Maryland Healthcare Education Institute. Over the past few years, I have traveled the country and spoken at annual meetings for many state hospital associations under the American Hospital Association, at dozens of healthcare leadership conferences, annual conventions for medical organizations  and given 100+ keynote presentations at various healthcare events (hospital leadership, Doctors, Nurses, EMS providers, frontline staff, nursing home personnel, medical suppliers, physical therapy and nursing school students). During my travels, I have had the opportunity to advise several world-renowned healthcare institutions on projects related to family and patient centered care.

It’s always an emotional experience for me to reflect back on my time in the hospital, especially in front of an audience full of healthcare providers and professionals. I give a piece of my heart and soul every time I tell my story, but it’s so worth it because my whole background is about showing the appreciation to the amazing people like them, for the work that they do, that saves people like me.

Every patient has a story and an experience, and I highly encourage healthcare providers to talk to their patients. As a patient, I was grateful for any interaction at all. Even though I was chemically paralyzed and the people around me were unsure of my level of comprehension, I was very aware of my surroundings.  I could even sense the energy of the people who came into my room, by their tone, body language and movement. I could tell if they were having a good day or a really bad day.  I also liked when my medical team would explain what they were doing, maybe not all the advanced details, but just enough to know what was taking place and that they were taking care of me.

During my time as a patient, the observations that I made truly inspired me and helped me understand how important the role of communication is between the patient and healthcare provider. When I was able to learn how to talk again, I soon discovered that the power of the voice is amplified when the message is of gratitude.

To learn more about Brian’s speaking background, please visit his website.