Sharon Hewner, PhD, RN, Assistant Professor at the UB School of Nursing has been selected as the 2012 recipient of UB’s Teaching Innovation Award. Dr. Hewner’s innovative “real world case scenario” approach to teaching patient safety and quality improvement greatly enriched students’ engagement and learning, and has provided a model for inter-professional education. She will be receiving her award at the Celebration of Faculty & Staff Excellence to be held on Wednesday, October 3rd, 3:30 pm in the Drama Theater in the Center for the Arts and all are invited to attend.
UB’s Teaching Innovation Award recognizes outstanding achievement in teaching innovation that has had a demonstrable effect on enhancing student-learning outcomes, including innovative uses of educational technology.
Dr. Hewner was given this award for her innovative and engaging patient-safety course, part of the UB School of Nursing’s undergraduate curriculum entitled: “Promoting Quality Health Outcomes and Culture of Safety,” that specifically addresses the ways nurses can raise their patient-safety awareness.
The course begins with a lecture from a daughter who lost her mother to medical error, proceeds to research for how things go wrong and ends with a simulation of how events leading to the error could have been prevented.
Hewner knows that one of the first things beginning nurses can do to prevent medical errors and improve patient safety is communicate.
“Communication is critical and structured communication techniques can prevent misunderstandings,” Hewner says. “Creating an environment where all members of the health care team, including doctors, nurses and pharmacists, feel they can speak up about safety concerns that can prevent medical errors.”
In her nomination letter for the Teaching Innovation Award, Dr. Davina Porock, Associate Dean for Research and Scholarship states, “From day one, Dr. Hewner’s goal was to bring her real world experience into the classroom, whether she was teaching undergraduates or graduate students. In the undergraduate leadership course, Dr. Hewner’s aim was to increase the students’ exposure to the nurse’s role in promoting patient safety and quality improvement in the ever-changing, complex healthcare environment of today. She asked herself “How do I bring the topic of patient safety to life for students?” Her answer was to provide the students with a human touch through the story of a real life experience of Mary Brennan Taylor’s mother Alice and her family.”
Mary Brennan-Taylor, is a Western New York patient-safety advocate and a colleague of Dr. Hewner’s on the Niagara Hospice Board. She was asked to speak to the class about how her mother died of preventable medical error.
“After Mary spoke to our class about her mother’s experience in her last six weeks of life, the students asked how her death could have been prevented. It was an important question,” says Dr. Hewner.
From that initial question, professor Hewner set up teams of students who researched this case study as to what went wrong, what were the best evidence-based practice guidelines and how did medications contribute to the problem. Teams communicated in weekly blogs and then each team was assigned an episode in the patient’s last six weeks.
The teams then came to the clinical laboratory and acted out how the episode might have had a different outcome if there had been a culture of safety. Nursing faculty and Ms. Brennan-Taylor served as coaches to guide the students and give them a simulated experience of how to communicate more effectively to ensure patient safety. Finally, the students summarized what they learned through the simulation experience and created posters to illustrate what they had learned.
Mary Brennan-Taylor was impressed by what she observed during the presentations and simulations. “This is an extremely effective way to teach patient safety—and, it’s innovative. I don’t think anyone is putting it together for students in the way that UB’s School of Nursing is,” she notes.
What are UB’s plans to get the word out about teaching patient safety in this way for students and practicing nurses at other institutions? “Right now the plan is to publish about the event as an innovative approach to nursing education and as a way to engage students in schools of nursing in patient safety issues,” Hewner says. “The director of the nationwide Safe-Patient Project thinks this is something that should be emulated and rolled out across the U.S.”