99. Case: Talking About an Adverse Event

You are a respiratory therapist working in a large hospital seeing a range of patients, but primarily working with the teams in the Emergency Department and ICU.  With one complex patient in ICU there was a miscommunication that resulted in improper settings being used for ventilation and this resulted in the patient having a longer-than-expected ICU stay.  You feel responsible for this and as part of the adverse event disclosure process you are going to talk to the family about it.  How will you prepare for the conversation?

Your loved one, who has dementia and COPD, is in ICU and you know that there was a mistake with their ventilator because you overheard some of the nurses talking about it.  You feel that the ICU environment is making your loved one’s dementia worse, and you’re angry that someone’s carelessness has resulted in harm to your loved one.  The nurses let you know that the respiratory therapist wants to talk to you about the incident.  You’re willing to have the conversation, but you’re tired from looking after your loved one and frustrated by your whole experience in the hospital.  What is most on your mind when you go into this conversation?

Discussion Questions:

  • How did your response to the case shift when you read about it from a different perspective?
  • What do you see as the most important values for each person involved in the conversation?
  • Why is it important to have this conversation from each person’s perspective?
  • Which values and principles are reflected in the commitment to ensuring that the conversation happens?
  • What can be done to help ensure that this is a “good” difficult conversation?


Alberta Health Services. Disclosure Done Well – Early Disclosure: Unsure If Care Is Reasonable. Published March 16, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2uEHmElX5M

Bonney, W. (2014). Medical errors: moral and ethical considerations. Journal of Hospital Administration. 3(2): 80-88. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=2ahUKEwjjwa2Z7PzgAhUV854KHa5sCPkQFjABegQIBBAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.sciedu.ca%2Fjournal%2Findex.php%2Fjha%2Farticle%2Fdownload%2F3475%2F2226&usg=AOvVaw2VCJ0K19IQYyW329XHm_C_

Brené Brown on Blame: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZWf2_2L2v8

Canadian Patient Safety Institute. (2011). Canadian Disclosure Guidelines: being open with patients and families. CPSI. https://www.patientsafetyinstitute.ca/en/toolsResources/disclosure/Documents/CPSI%20Canadian%20Disclosure%20Guidelines.pdf

Canadian Medical Protective Association. Disclosure – Maintaining Trust. https://www.cmpa-acpm.ca/serve/docs/ela/goodpracticesguide/pages/adverse_events/Disclosure/disclosure-e.html

Canadian Medical Protective Association. Disclosing Harm from Health Care Delivery. Version 3, 2017. https://www.cmpa-acpm.ca/static-assets/pdf/advice-and-publications/handbooks/com_15_disclosure_handbook-e.pdf

Nova Scotia Health Authorities. 2017. Disclosure of Patient Safety Incidents. Patients First. http://www.nshealth.ca/sites/nshealth.ca/files/patientinformation/1448.pdf