1. What is your job title?
Human Factors Researcher at Children's Mercy Hospital Kansas City in Missouri.
2. Why did you go into Human Factors?
As an undergrad I loved psychology, but I knew I wouldn’t be a good fit as a clinical or community psychologist. During my senior year I had a psych professor mention a third program at our university- Human Factors. In one sentence she described how it combined cognition, computer science, and systems thinking to improve systems. I dropped her class immediately (sorry!), took an intro to HF class and have been hooked ever since.
3. Why did you choose the healthcare route?
My stepmom is a pediatric ER doc and would often come home lamenting all the poor designs she ran into but felt powerless to do anything about. When my son was born with a serious health condition, I ran into the same things on the patient/family side of things. All these people are doing the best they can, and yet the system consistently lets them down, or asks them to do too much. I saw Human Factors as an opportunity to make a difference for people in healthcare.
4. Why did you decide to be embedded as opposed to work in academia or industry?
Honestly, trial by fire. I did my dissertation in the ER observing attending physicians. I went in with a literature review, some questions, and my HF tools. I felt woefully unprepared. However, everyone there was so grateful that someone was taking the time to actually watch the work, ask them questions, and just listen. I was exposed to issues with interfaces and floor layouts, the complex nature of educating residents, the pressures that come with variability in care. And somehow through all of that, people have adapted and thrive in these environments. That experience opened my eyes to the sheer number (and diversity) of opportunities in healthcare, something I knew I would struggle to find in academia or industry.
5. What are things do you enjoy about being an embedded HF practitioner?
I love being able to make a difference and see the impact. I love forming the relationships with the staff, and they appreciate that even after the project is over, we’re still a resource for them. Sometimes, just being able to have someone listen to them, or provide some resources via email is all they need. Not all of our projects have a big impact, but even the smaller ones make a difference for someone.
6. What is one piece of advice you would give up-and-coming HF professionals who want to become embedded in healthcare.
Growth mindset all the way. You may walk into a hospital as an HF expert, but you will quickly learn all of the things you don’t know (hello, Dunning-Kruger effect). And even the things you do know about HF, are really much more complicated to apply in a real world setting. Which is why you have to maintain a sense of learning. Providers, patients, families - they become part of your team, and they all offer something different you can learn from. That being said, you will fail, you will feel undervalued, and you will be discouraged. Instead of letting that get you down, learn from it.
7. What is the one piece of advice you would give to healthcare professionals to help those up-and-comers?
In the beginning, your HF colleague will need your support for a LOT of things, how the organization works, who they should know, what the culture is like. Set them up with different leaders in departments you know would be receptive to HF, let them shadow people, and point out areas where there is struggle. Most of them lack any medical training whatsoever, so be a resource they can come to to ask questions. Most importantly, advocate for them. Getting buy-in is hard enough without a medical degree (even sometimes with one…) so be their ally during those conversations where you know HF could help.
8. What is your dream superpower?
Teleportation! Sure it could help with the work commute, but can you imagine being able to just teleport to an island somewhere?!
9. If you had the entire world’s attention for 30 seconds, what would you say?
Slow down!! Take that mental health day. Ignore the yard work and read a book. Don’t feel guilty for calling it a day at 5pm or leaving early to watch a Kindergarten play. The work will always be there, but the little things won’t.
10. What fictional character do you wish you could meet?