As a trauma surgeon, I should be thinking about safety all the time, and writing about it should be easy. But when I really sat and thought about safety, I found that it’s more difficult than one might think. What does safety really mean to each of us?
For me, safety first comes to mind for myself and my family. Is our home safe for my children? Are they safe when they go play at a friend’s house? What safety concerns do I have at work? Am I okay walking to my car? Next, I’m concerned about my patients. Are they safe to return home? What can I do to enhance the safety of their home or environment so they don’t become recidivists? All of these are important questions, and physical safety is regularly on my mind, given my job. But when asked to really consider safety and what it means, I thought there was much more to this, that may not be as apparent on an everyday basis. For example, what are my safe spaces to talk? Who do I trust and feel comfortable with? As a surgeon, who so often has to be brave and stoic in the face of overwhelming tragedy, where am I emotionally safe? What does that even mean?
This month, as we explore safety, I encourage everyone to take a look at all the facets of safety in our lives, and examine where we can help ourselves and others become safer. Some things will be obvious – make sure your elderly parents aren’t getting on 2 story ladders to clean the gutters, right after they take their aspirin and Plavix. Encourage a disabled neighbor to install bathtub rails and remove loose rugs. Next time your child has a playdate, ask the parents if there is an unsecured gun in the home. All of these can save a life.
But also, let’s make an effort to help one another be emotionally safe. Let’s expand the “safe space” that is the Association of Women Surgeons, so that all women surgeons can feel they have a network of support when it’s needed. Talk to your family and make sure they are emotionally safe with their partners and friends. Let’s examine our own relationships and make sure they are safe and healthy, and if not, that we are getting the help we need to build that trust. Let’s make sure we are asking and receiving the things we need to make our work lives emotionally safe and healthy. Surgeons need to set the example – that it’s an expectation that our work environments are safe spaces to share ideas, ask questions, and admit faults. This is essential to patient safety, trainee work environment, and professional advancement of women.
Finally, as a nod to the news this very week: Talk to your sons. Make them understand that emotional and physical safety of women is their responsibility, too. Teaching respect for women and, indeed, for human dignity to all our children is at the root of curbing interpersonal violence and sexual assault, making the world a safer place for all.
My challenge to readers: Take safety seriously, and think about all facets of safety. Speak up, be proactive. Please use the comments to tell me how you are promoting safety this month!
Dr. Bonne is a board-certified general surgeon with additional training and certification in Surgical Critical Care. Her clinical interests are in trauma and injury prevention, trauma epidemiology, and infections in the surgical intensive care unit. She participates in the American College of Surgeons, the Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma, and the Society of Critical Care Medicine. She leads the American Medical Women’s Association Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. Dr. Bonne is the current Communications Chair for the AWS, and also serves as the faculty advisor for the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School chapter. She is a wife and mother to three young children.
Our blog is a forum for our members to speak, and as such, statements made here represent the opinions of the author, and are not necessarily the opinion of the Association of Women Surgeons.