It was her desire to create order out of chaos that inspired Paula Beard to become an advanced-care paramedic. “When I was with terribly ill or frightened patients and family, I came to understand that being present in someone’s most vulnerable moments in life is an incredible privilege,” says Beard.
Between her work as a paramedic and management positions with Saskatchewan Health and the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region, Beard has spent more than 15 years improving quality of care in those vulnerable moments, as well as patient safety. When Beard joined the Canadian Patient Safety Institute (CPSI), she was concerned about the patients who felt powerless when they were harmed by care that was meant to heal them. There was no standardized method for investigating, disclosing, or sharing information about accidental harm with medical professionals or the public. So the mistakes made in one hospital, such as confusing similarly named medications, weren’t always known in others, risking repetition of the mistakes.
In order to make sharing as easy as possible and to avoid burdening already overworked healthcare providers, Paula and her colleagues at the CPSI collected incident reports in one database. In February 2011, the CPSI launched Global Patient Alerts, a “Google-like” search engine of these reports, which includes recommendations on how patient harm can be avoided.