Patient safety issues highlighted in innovative stage play

When it comes to Canadian Patient Safety Week, the play’s the thing.

Researchers at York’s Faculty of Health have come up with a pioneering way to convey their evidence-based research on what can happen when health-care mistakes are made – they’re putting on a play about it.

Seeing the Forest, inspired by a true story about what happens when a patient is not heard, will be staged as part of Canadian Patient Safety Week, Nov. 1 to 5.

Directed by York theatre studies PhD candidate Laura Jayne Nelles (BA Spec. Hons. ’84, MFA ’07) and presented by York’s Faculty of Health and the York University – UHN (University Health Network) Nursing Academy, the play will take place Monday, Nov. 1 at 1pm in 152 Founders Assembly Hall, Founders College, Keele campus. The event is free and open to everyone.

It will also be performed as part of a symposium at various health-care sites across the Greater Toronto Area.

York Professors Deborah Tregunno and Liane Ginsburg of the School of Nursing, are leaders in the field of patient safety culture. They collaborated with York nursing Professor Gail Mitchell, who has experience with conveying research findings through the arts. This dramatic approach presents research from their studies conducted in four provinces, in cooperation with the Canadian Patient Safety Institute.

The play’s development was financially supported by the York’s Faculty of Health Interprofessional Education Fund (IPE). IPE programming is shared with the health-care community through the Faculty’s innovative Health Leadership & Learning Network.

Co-written by professional playwright Julia Gray (BFA Spec. Hons. ’98, MA ’07) and Mitchell, Seeing the Forest is being performed in collaboration with six organizations, including the Central Community Care Access Centre, the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health, Credit Valley Hospital, North York General Hospital, Sunnybrook Hospital and Unionville Home Society.

“By dramatizing research using the arts, the findings become more meaningful,” says Mitchell. “The play presents the complexity of real life from the perspective of the patient and health care professionals. The impact is much stronger than it would be if you were just reading words off the page of a research report.”

The key character in the play, Healther, goes to the hospital for routine surgery and tries to communicate specific concerns to different health-care providers, yet things go awry. Research suggests that 2.9 to 16.6 percent of patients in acute care hospitals experience one or more adverse events.

“Health care providers work hard to keep patients safe every day. However, there are often systemic issues that contribute to errors. This play is valuable because it strikes an emotional chord and engages people in conversations about improving safety,” says Tregunno.

“This play is a great example of the innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to health care led by York’s Faculty of Health,” adds Professor Lesley Beagrie, associate dean, professional & global programs. “Instead of tailoring health-care programs to individual silos within the health profession, we aim to keep the focus on the end user – the patient.”