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Patient Safety Fellows Model the Response Needed for Future Emergencies

As it happens every summer at the Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF), nearing the end of the season brings with it the conclusion of the Patient Safety Fellowship. In the record of JHF's Feinstein Fellowships, however, the 2020 Patient Safety Fellowship will always stand out, creating a unique and unforgettable experience for 66 talented and accomplished fellows - the largest cohort ever – during a national public health emergency.

The COVID-19 pandemic required a rapid shift to a virtual fellowship platform, which presented the opportunity for fellows to apply nationwide. They did, in droves, and JHF not only welcomed the largest Fellowship cohort to date, but the Fellows also brought the highest level and diversity of experience than any previous Fellowship. They represented 34 specialties and disciplines, from clinical backgrounds to children's literature to Homeland Security, and their eagerness to challenge themselves during a challenging time was inspiring.

As the pandemic grew into an even greater crisis for patient safety, JHF saw the opportunity to convene key players and learn from their real-time actions. This year, the Patient Safety Fellowship focused on our health system's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, uncovering the challenges facing the government, healthcare organizations, and the public health system. Over the course of nine weeks, fellows reflected on the shortcomings of leadership and explored the roles of innovation and technology in addressing the current crisis.

The Fellowship ultimately brought 24 speakers to share their insights and perspectives of the pandemic. Fellows especially valued the span of voices and disciplines involved.

"The Fellowship helped reinforce for me that there are so many perspectives and stakeholders in the setting of a pandemic, and the importance of listening, learning, and collaborating closely with all of those stakeholders in order to be successful," said Shikha Bhatia, MD, MPH, internal medicine resident at Allegheny General Hospital.

For the finale of the Fellowship on July 29, the 66 participating fellows synthesized their learning and mapped their imagined responses to future public health emergencies. Each interdisciplinary group of fellows took on the perspective of a different healthcare context, from a local primary care practice all the way to a large international health agency. Each group focused on different components of the fellowship that met the needs of their specific context, reflecting key takeaways in crisis leadership, predictive analytics modeling, health communications, contact tracing, collaborative partnerships, health equity, quality improvement and safety science, mental health, and creativity and innovation. One example of a team's response plan is detailed on a website they created here.

JHF staff supported fellows' group projects and provided guidance and support. Supporting staff included Chief Policy Officer Robert Ferguson, MPH, Lean Healthcare Strategy and Implementation Manager Jennifer Condel, SCT(ASCP)MT, Practice Transformation Specialist Carol Frazer, MEd, LPC, Program Manager Deborah Murdoch, MPH, Program Coordinator Sue Steele, Program Assistant Kyle Terrill, MSW, Chief Communications Officer Scotland Huber, MS, and Program Associate Steven Guo.

Fellows had the opportunity to reflect on their experience this summer at the end of the finale, with many highlighting the importance of interdisciplinary work and the expansive impact of COVID-19. As the Fellowship drew to a close, most fellows reported leaving with a greater hope in our ability to address the COVID-19 crisis. The Fellowship's guest speakers' knowledge, the Fellows said, inspired this hope, as speakers had shared insights and practical applications that helped fellows understand a multifaceted response.

"The ability to understand how all of these different perspectives come to bear on the problems that we are trying to solve was enlightening," said Michelle Royal, MBA, MA, VP of Research and Analysis at FirstLink Research and Analytics. "It was amazing to be able to hear from so many experts in so many different fields to provide perspectives that inform the COVID-19 response. This knowledge allows you to analytically think about the situation in new ways, and consider how a future response could be or should be based on what we've learned."

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