When one speaks of great leaders, they talk about Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Abraham Lincoln. When one wants to talk about great nurse leaders, They talk about Laura Gasparis Vonfrolio, PhD, RN
Laura is such a tremendous advocate for nurses and a vicious opponent of iatrogenic injury (healthcare related injuries). Twenty one years ago, she organized a March for safe staffing in Washington DC with 35,000 nurses in attendance. She testifies in front of House committees to support bills. She teaches CCRN, and is a Critical Care expert in her own right. She is a real live nurse, with real live experience, and a really ALIVE New York attitude.
I recognize it because I am also in possession of that attitude. (Long Island! Shoutout!) Laura has been putting herself out there for nurses for literally decades. Someday I hope I will do one percent of Laura’s work for nursing. Unlikely, but I have my hopes.
Laura was teaching a critical care class and during the hemodynamics lecture, she gave an inspiring and daunting talk about healthcare errors. Essentially, she said that if you crashed three jumbo jets – full of three hundred people each, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday all year long, it would equal the number of healthcare related deaths per year. She said this to Congress. All of her friends were scared to testify. Naturally, Laura put herself out there for nursing and was the voice of those too afraid to speak. She testified. A Congressman had the unmitigated gall to ask her exactly why he would need a licensed nurse at his bedside.
She discussed the possibility of replacing licensed aircraft mechanics with unlicensed mechanics, and asking the guy who cleans the plane to fly it instead.
I will let you watch the video, but Laura makes her point in a powerful way.
The latest study estimates 250,000 deaths each year as a result of medical errors. Using Laura’s example: if we crashed THREE JUMBO JETS EVERY WEEKDAY, we would almost get to that number of iatrogenic deaths per year. The entire country would go insane if such a thing were to happen in the airline industry, but we allow these deaths to happen in healthcare every single day, all year long. Deaths caused by the very hospital that was supposed to heal you.
Deaths caused by lack of knowledge, egregious practices, honest mistakes, and FAILURE TO RESCUE.
Many of these deaths are for the sake of saving a moderate amount of money for an extra nurse or two per unit. What cost do we place on a life?
I would like to remind you that three thousand people killed by plane crashes (and terrorism) in the United States on September 11, 2001 completely changed our lives, and our entire airline industry. Why doesn’t two hundred fifty thousand senseless deaths per year do the same thing for healthcare? And how many iatrogenic deaths go unreported?
What is the real number?
Safe Staffing Saves Lives.
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