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Reviewing missions is more than just dotting I's and crossing T's

03.05.2014 Missions Education Operations

When patient lives are on the line, learning from past experience is a critical component of doing things right. 

This is why case reviews – a process where every STARS’ mission is methodically examined and pertinent findings reported – are so engrained into the organization’s medical culture.

For Dr. Louis Francescutti, a physician, president of the Canadian Medical 
Association and professor at the University of Alberta, case reviews aren’t about finding blame; it’s a process that ensures issues or areas for improvement don’t go unnoticed. 

“The more you review your practices and learn from them, the better the outcomes will be for patients,” said Francescutti, adding that STARS’ review process is unique in the medical world and should be replicated in other health-care organizations.

“STARS would probably be held out as the gold example for how everything should be done,” he said. “The challenge for the rest of the system is to perform at the level that STARS is performing right now.”

Dave Evans, director of clinical operations at STARS, agrees that catching minor issues early on can reap significant benefits down the road. “Lots of times, there are unique circumstances we run into that don’t result in any harm to a patient but are certainly areas for improvement,” he said. “If we catch them and fix them before a problem develops, we can make things better for the next patients we carry. It’s about always getting better at what we do.”

For instance, Evans says, it was discovered through case reviews that crews were encountering challenges providing advanced airway management in certain types of patients. A mandatory robust airway management course and training module was developed and as of 2012, all STARS crews receive extensive preparation to deal with these unique cases.

Are STARS crews comfortable having their work scrutinized so closely? “Absolutely,” said Paula Sharman, a flight nurse from Edmonton. 

“The culture at STARS is one where we are open and honest with each other and our medical partners to ensure we are always doing what’s best for our patients. I know that when my missions are reviewed, it’s done in the spirit of continual improvement, so I go into it confidently.” 


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