Ex-NASA astronaut leads safety workshops for NZ health professionals

3 Nov 2014 | Health Quality & Safety Commission

A former NASA astronaut will be incorporating safety principles learned in the US space programme when he leads workshops for New Zealand health professionals organised by the Health Quality & Safety Commission.

The workshops are part of the Commission’s inaugural Patient Safety Week, November 3 to 9, a nationwide focus on the commitment of the country’s doctors, nurses and other health care staff to provide the best and safest care possible.

Leading the workshops is Dr James Bagian, who took part in two space missions, helped plan and provide emergency medical and rescue support for six more, and was an investigator for the 1986 Challenger space shuttle crash.

Dr Bagian switched to patient safety in 1997 after he was asked to apply his expertise to the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). He became the VHA’s first Chief Patient Safety Officer and founded its National Center for Patient Safety, where he developed many patient safety tools and methods that have been implemented on a world-wide basis.

He is now a renowned expert in the field and director of the Center for Healthcare Engineering and Patient Safety at the University of Michigan.

During his New Zealand visit, Dr Bagian will be emphasising the need to foster systems-based ways to prevent harm occurring to patients.

‘Overall, patients are certainly better off today due to the care they are provided than at any time in the past,’ he says. ‘However, many patients are still harmed inadvertently while undergoing treatment. We must reject the failed traditional blame-based approach of the past and adopt a systems-based multidisciplinary approach in order to make meaningful and sustainable progress that will prevent such harm in the future.’

Professor Alan Merry, Chair of the Commission, says Dr Bagian’s visit could not be more timely, coming shortly after the 30 October release of the Commission’s annual national report on serious adverse events in the health sector.

‘Dr Bagian is at the forefront of exactly the sort of approach to patient safety that lies behind both the report and the work of the Commission as a whole,’ says Prof Merry.

‘The many health professionals attending his workshops in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin this week will gain invaluable insights into how reviewing serious adverse event cases can help us find and introduce ways to stop such events happening again, as well as into the other attributes of a successful patient safety system.’

Last updated 03/11/2014