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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

‘Power of Truth’ panel discussion at URI to address impacts of medical errors, Oct. 1

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862

URI College of Nursing to hold program on values of honesty/transparency

KINGSTON, R.I. – September 16, 2010 -- Surgery completed on the wrong side of a patient, medication errors and other medical mistakes have generated widespread outrage among patients and gained widespread coverage in Rhode Island and around the country.

The University of Rhode Island’s College of Nursing, long a leader in tying research to improving patient care from hospital admission to the home, will hold a panel discussion Friday, Oct. 1 from 2 to 4 p.m. in Edwards Hall, 64 Upper College Road, to address the emotional issue of medical errors and their wide ranging impact. Free and open to the public, the program’s title is “The Power of Truth: How Honesty Empowers Patients, Families, Practitioners and Health Care Organizations.”

Dayle Joseph, dean of URI’s College of Nursing, is the moderator of the panel. A member of the Lifespan Oversight Quality Committee, hospital, education and government leaders have called upon her for her expertise in nursing workforce development and improving patient care through research.

“The philosophy regarding medical errors in this state is that professionals and institutions admit their mistakes and make them public,” Joseph said. “We take this issue very seriously. There has been a great deal of publicity about medical errors in Rhode Island hospitals, but that’s because of an environment of openness. While these incidents generate national headlines, in terms of total numbers we are doing much better than many other states.”

“Admitting our mistakes and learning how to do better are all part of doing what’s best for patients,” Joseph said.

A part of the College’s 65th anniversary, the program will address:

• The impact of errors on patients and their families, health care professionals and health care systems.
• The need to be sensitive to the emotional reactions and hardships experienced by patients and families when errors occur.
• Possible clinical, risk management, legal and administrative strategies for remedying errors.

Panel members are:

•Thomas A. Bledsoe, physician at Rhode Island Hospital and clinical associate professor, Alpert Medical School of Brown University. He is also a staff member of the Brown’s Center for Biomedical Ethics, having served as the center’s interim executive director from 2003 to 2007. He has received numerous teaching excellence awards at Brown. He earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from Dartmouth College and his medical degree from the Brown-Dartmouth Program in medicine.

• Rebecca L. Burke, a graduate of URI’s College of Nursing, now the chief nursing officer at St. Francis Hospital & Medical Center in Hartford, Conn., where she is responsible for the delivery of patient care and the administrative direction of all nursing personnel at St. Francis and Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Hospital. From 1980 until her hiring at St. Francis, Burke was senior vice president and chief operating officer/chief nursing officer at The Miriam Hospital in Providence. Burke holds a master’s degree in nursing administration from Boston University and she completed the Wharton Nurse Executive Fellows Program at the University of Pennsylvania.

• Joan Flynn, vice president of risk management for Lifespan. Named to that position in January, Flynn is responsible for planning, coordinating and directing the comprehensive risk management program for the four-hospital health care system. She oversees all hospital-based clinical risk management services and the procurement of all property and casualty insurance. From 1999 to January 2010, she was director of risk management for Lifespan. She earned her bachelor’s degree in physical therapy from Northeastern University and is a certified professional in Healthcare Risk Management.

• Kathleen C. Hittner, a physician and senior vice president of community health at Lifespan. In her community health post, Hittner works to attract and retain primary care physicians in Rhode Island and serve as a liaison to community health centers and the physician community. She leads the development of Lifespan’s primary care physician strategy and serves as the lead liaison to community health centers. The anesthesiologist was named by Rhode Island Monthly as one of the Top Docs in April 2000 and April 2002. She was president of The Miriam Hospital Foundation from 2001 to 2009 and the hospital’s president and chief executive officer from 2000 to 2009. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Albright College and her medical degree from the Tufts University School of Medicine.

• William Jestings, a partner with the law firm of Bengston & Jestings, LLP. For the past 27 years, his practice has been primarily dedicated to assisting health care providers, including the defense of medical malpractice cases, representing physicians in disciplinary matters, representing health care providers in disputes over compliance issues, interpreting contracts and representing physicians in disputes over provider agreements. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from Suffolk University and his law degree from Suffolk’s Law School where he graduated cum laude.