Patty Ruddick, RN, MSN is the Director of Patient Safety for the West Virginia Medical Institute (WVMI), a non-profit organization charged with improving clinical outcomes in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. We recently had a chance to meet with her and discuss her work and career.
Where are you from?
I am originally from Wildwood Crest, New Jersey and lived there until I went to college at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. My husband and I moved to Hurricane, West Virginia twenty
two years ago with our two daughters when he accepted a job at Verizon.
What was your academic major at Villanova?
I received a BSN in 1980 and later received a MSN at Marshall University.
What was your career path from college to your current position?
After I graduated in 1980, I worked on a surgical floor at Lankenau Hospital in Philadelphia. It was a great experience because we were mostly new grads from the various colleges in that area.
After that, I got married and moved to Baltimore and worked at Greater Baltimore Medical Center and also at Johns Hopkins. They are great hospitals and I saw a lot of interesting things.
In 1986, we moved to West Virginia and I was able to work as a case manager, nursing instructor, and also worked as a legal nurse consultant while I was getting a Masters in Nursing as a Nurse Practitioner at Marshall University in Huntington.
After I graduated from Marshall, I worked with Dr. Richard Hayes as an NP. I have worked in my current position as the Director of Patient Safety at West Virginia Medical Institute for seven years.
What is the worst experience you have had doing clinical nursing?
I remember being a new nursing grad and asked to â€œfloatâ€ to another floor on the 11-7 shift. I had never done a tube feeding before and had no one to show me how to do it. I remember reading a med-surg book and then just doing it. I was nervous, but luckily it worked!
What is the single biggest mistake that nurses make in developing their careers?
I remember one of my nursing instructors at Villanova told us not to be â€œappliance nurses.â€ I didnâ€™t quite understand that at the time, but as I needed things for my house, or a new car, or college tuition, I finally got it.
Since most women are nurses, we are great at multi-tasking: taking care of kids, family, and working out of the home as well.
What is the mission of the West Virginia Medical Institute?
WVMI is the healthcare quality improvement organization for West Virginia, as well as Pennsylvania and Delaware. Our mission is to improve the healthcare of the people we serve and I think we have dedicated staff that tries to do that everyday!
What are three things patients can do to improve the quality and safety of the healthcare they receive?
First and foremost, patients need to be fully informed about their healthcare. They need to ask questions, get second opinions, and be an informed consumer.
I am presently working on a federal grant called the Health Information Security and Privacy Collaboration which focuses on educating consumers and providers about electronic health records and the exchange of information. Having our records electronically will help avoid errors.
Additionally, we need to get back to the basics with healthcare- we need to make sure that we are effective, patient-centered, and equitable. Technology will help us with decreasing errors, but all healthcare workers need to provide quality care that is not only scientific and evidence based but delivered with care.
Why is American medicine not safer?
Prior to the IOM Report in 1999 (To Err is Human) there was very little effort towards patient safety.
This does not mean that our healthcare providers wanted to harm their patients, it just means that there was little published about patient safety and how to keep our patients free from harm.
There is now more emphasis on this topic – lots more research being done and more funding being put into patient safety. Three years ago, WVMI received a patient safety grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to help rural hospitals improve care, quality, and safety.
To my knowledge, this was one of the first grants in WV to address to address patient safety.
Have you or a loved one ever experienced poor or unsafe care and, if so, how did you cope with it
I have never experienced poor or unsafe care in West Virginia. However, I see that nurses are over worked and understaffed, and although they try their best, itâ€™s hard to provide quality care under poor staffing conditions.
I always tell friends and relatives that it is very important to have a family member with you when you are in the hospital – someone to look out for you and be your advocate. Itâ€™s also important to make sure you are in the best facility possible and have a physician who is experienced.
Do you think malpractice awards for pain and suffering should be capped?
Yes, I do think they should be capped – but itâ€™s hard to put a price on pain and suffering.
As a nurse, I know that we don’t ever try and hurt someone, but if one of my loved ones was seriously harmed by a negligence, there wouldnâ€™t be enough money in the world to make things right.
How does West Virginia rank in the nation in terms of quality and safety of its healthcare?
I asked a colleague of mine, Rebecca Cochran, who is the Director of the Quality Improvement Program at WVMI. For the work that we do for the Medicare Appropriate Care Measures, we went from 42nd in the nation in 2000 to the 5th best safe rate in the nation in 2007. So as you can see, we are making a difference in quality care.
What is your top remaining “place to see before I die” travel destination?
My family all came from Italy and I need to get there to see relatives before they all die off!!