Reflective doctors and cool babies (2019)

Type of publication:
Conference abstract

*Charlesworth D.; Cunningham S.; Dudley L.; Bentley F.; Oguntimehin J.; Fairclough S.

BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology; Jun 2019; vol. 126 ; p. 45

Introduction In 2014, the RCOG launched the 'Each Baby Counts' initiative which included the aim of reducing the number of neonates who are left severely disabled by preventable incidents in labour. The initial report concluded that a different outcome may have been achieved in 76% of cases if different care had been received. Around the same time, reflective practice among doctors faced a significant challenge secondary to negative perceptions of its use in litigation, and resilience continued to be tested as work pressures, insufficient staff numbers, and public perceptions continued to increase. With the interplay between all these factors being crucial in achieving the state of experiential learning necessary to achieve the EBC goals, we look at a different method for reflective practice and quality improvement. Methods In 2015, we launched a series of measures inspired by EBC to reduce our rates of neonates requiring therapeutic hypothermia. One key component of our programme was a change in how our RCAs were undertaken. We changed RCA leads to include staff at all levels from across the multidisciplinary team, promoted a reflective journey and thematic analysis, changed our meetings to include staff recommended by the EBC report to achieve a more multidisciplinary and inclusive representation, promoted team learning, and fed back via casebased, reflective teaching. We then undertook a 48-month retrospective audit from 01/2015 to 12/2018 to see if we had improved care. Results In 2015, our therapeutic hypothermia annual incidence was 12, 11 in 2016, 7 in 2017, and 2 by 12/2018. Thematic analysis of our cases revealed a change in precipitating factors from preventable to unpredictable, and we subsequently increased the proportion of cases in which we concluded we could not improve the end outcome (though learning was identified in all). Staff empowerment increased, hierarchies flattened, and our ability to identify key targeted improvements increased to facilitate change and drive improvement. Conclusion We discovered that, if conducted well, with reflection as a key component, and the aim to promote a culture of learning and becoming, RCA can be used as a powerful teaching tool in training, and to promote improved patient care. As more staff engaged in our new RCA process, feedback indicated an increase in resilience and a more open culture of learning, unhindered by more traditional elements of reflective learning.

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