SOURCE: Western University of Health Sciences

Western University of Health Sciences

August 21, 2012 14:37 ET

Safety Is Focus of WesternU Nursing Conference

POMONA, CA--(Marketwire - Aug 21, 2012) -  Karen Curtiss plays with paper dolls on a regular basis, but they aren't an exercise in scissor art to her -- they illustrate some crucial, and troubling, data about patient safety in hospitals.

Curtiss, founder of the nonprofit CampaignZERO -- Families for Patient Safety, and the author of "Safe & Sound in the Hospital: Must-Have Checklists and Tools for Your Loved One's Care," was one of the keynote speakers at the Quality and Safety Education for Nurse Educators and Clinical Leaders conference held Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012 at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Ontario, Calif.

The conference was coordinated and sponsored by the College of Graduate Nursing at Western University of Health Sciences, in collaboration with The Health Workforce Initiative and the California Institute for Nursing & Healthcare.

Citing statistics that show nearly 300,000 lives are lost by accident in U.S. hospitals every year, and that one in every three patients is accidentally harmed in some way during their hospital stay, Curtiss asked the conference's 200 participants to each pick up a string of six paper dolls from their tables.

"Imagine these are the six people closest to you, who would call on you if they needed help," she said. "Now -- which two would you pick to be harmed?"

Curtiss said the exercise was useful in making cold numbers translate into something real, and that it drove home nationwide issues: Hospital safety needs to improve, patients and their families must be strong advocates for their own care, and nurses play a critical role in ensuring that care is patient-focused and safe.

Karen Hanford, EdD, MSN, FNP, PA-C, dean of the College of Graduate Nursing, welcomed conference participants by noting that the event was the first in what is planned as a series of WesternU-led conferences about nursing issues. "It has been my vision since becoming dean to create a center of excellence in our region. You are all part of that dream."

"We have brought quality and safety expertise to the Southern California community, and we are part of a new leadership that nursing is going to take in the Inland Empire for developing new systems of care," Hanford said later. "If nurses are like-minded on the best things to do, it will change organizations. We are in a position to change systems of care."

Jan Boller, PhD, RN, College of Graduate Nursing associate professor and Doctor of Nursing Practice Program director, said the conference was one of the most satisfying she has ever been a part of.

"We're used to working in our own little silos, but to get safety to be in every organization and across all settings, we're going to have to work together," she said. "This will take a shift in thinking about who's important in the discussion of patient safety."

The conference was funded in part by grants from the Fletcher Jones Foundation and the CA Community College Economic and Workforce Development Program Grant at Golden West College. Additional sponsors include the WesternU Phi Alpha chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International and the California Institute for Nursing & Health Care.

About Western University of Health Sciences

Western University of Health Sciences (, located in Pomona, Calif., is an independent nonprofit health professions university, conferring degrees in biomedical sciences, dental medicine, health sciences, nursing, optometry, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy, physician assistant studies, podiatric medicine and veterinary medicine.

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