Using stories to get to the heart of safety

Gale Herrera leads a different kind of book club. Every four weeks, Herrera, the Chief Nursing Officer at Story County Medical Center, convenes her leadership team to discuss safety and quality at the hospital, with one agenda item being “book club.”

The club is an innovative effort to increase attention by hospital leaders to patient safety efforts.

The first book chosen was “Fatal Care,” by Sanjaya Kumar, MD, of patient safety software company Quantros, Inc. The book details the cases of 11 medical errors in US hospitals, focusing on the impact of the errors on patients and their loved ones.

 “All of us can get mired down in the incident reports and the data,” Herrera explained. “Having these discussions really puts a face on what we’re trying to do to improve patient safety.”

Patient safety pioneer Peter Pronovost, MD, said in a recent interview that healthcare providers everywhere need to ensure that they not lose sight amid reams of safety statistics that real patients are harmed and sometimes killed in hospitals. Pronovost said he routinely reminds providers, “Data documents, but the heart motivates.”

For Herrera and her team at Story Medical, “Fatal Care” provided the vehicle to analyze the cases chapter by chapter. Talking about real cases brings the hospital’s own patient safety statistics into sharp relief. Team members now are more likely to share stories of near-misses and quality problems, which is helping Story Medical identify and correct problems that occur before they become harmful, Herrera said.

While unconventional, Story Medical leaders have embraced book club and are identifying other books that the team will read and discuss. Chief Operating & Compliance Officer, Julie Schreitmueller, saw how successful Herrera’s book club was and recently started a club with the managers under her leadership.

In “The Customer Comes Second,” authors Rosenbluth and Peters argue that company's employees, not its customers, should be management's top priority. Schreitmueller and her team agree – if employees are engaged in the workplace, they will be more connected and care more about patient safety and satisfaction. 

For over 50 years, Story County Medical Center, Story Medical Clinics and Story Medical Senior Care have been the trusted providers of high-quality, local healthcare services for the people of Story County. Their new, modern South Campus creates a healing environment that matches the personalized care and clinical expertise of its medical staff. Visit for more information.

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