Angela Green, Ph.D., Reflects on the 'Sacred Work' of Patient Care and Safety

Angela Green, chief patient safety and quality officer at Johns Hopkins All Children’s, talks about how her experience at the bedside informs her role.

Angela Green, Ph.D., is vice president and chief patient safety and quality officer at Johns Hopkins All Children’s.

Angela Green, Ph.D., is vice president and chief patient safety and quality officer at Johns Hopkins All Children’s.

Published in Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital - Spring 2021

As a young girl in Alabama, Angela Green, Ph.D., envisioned becoming a trapeze artist in the circus. She was more attracted to the “cute outfits” than the high-flying danger.

As Green grew older and more sensible, her interests shifted from circus thrills to children’s health and safety.

“I knew for a really long time that I wanted to do something that served children and part of that was because I grew up in a community with lots of cousins, and I was one of the older cousins,” she says. “That really framed my experience growing up. I considered being a pediatrician, considered being a teacher, considered nursing and ultimately landed on nursing as a place that I could serve children and be just exquisitely engaged with them and their families.”

Green started her career as a clinical nurse and then became a nurse practitioner. She thought if she left direct patient care for anything it would be academia, maybe to work her way to dean of a nursing school. Instead, she tells us about a career journey she describes as a “jungle gym,” traveling from the bedside to an academic faculty phase and into hospital administration at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and now to vice president and chief patient safety and quality officer at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.

How does your early work as a clinical nurse inform your job now as an administrator overseeing a vast enterprise of patient safety?

My job now is really firmly rooted in those decades of experience at the bedside, first, as a staff nurse and then later as a nurse practitioner. It keeps me grounded not only in the hard work that happens at the bedside, but it also keeps that focus on where our mission is really operationalized, the point of care.

What does a patient safety administrator do with her day?

Like many administrators, a lot of the day is meetings. We begin our day, usually with a meeting, but then we have executive event review where we ask whether there have been any high-risk events that we need immediate response to. Usually, there’s not, and we move into whatever the day brings.

A key part of every week is rounding in the clinical and non-clinical areas to make sure that you're present and available and that you always have the voice of those at the point of care in your ear and in your mind. One of the things that we know is that you have to be nimble. You might have a calendar that is filled with meetings, but if something happens and a staff member has a concern about a patient event, everything drops and that becomes the focus.

You are the Catherine Kobren Endowed Professor in Patient Safety and Quality. Can you address what a statement it is that the Kobren family chose this topic as one of the first Johns Hopkins University endowed professorships on the St. Petersburg campus?

The Kobrens have a long history with children's hospitals, Boston Children’s and our hospital. They’re invested in our hospital and in our patient safety program. That professorship really is emblematic of their commitment. It creates accountability of the person in that chair to hold that chair in a way that honors their contribution and honors our patients and families. From an academic standpoint, it will help us attract future candidates to fill the role and maintain a high focus on patient safety and quality.

Your social media feeds show you are clearly a loving and involved grandmother. What should parents and grandparents ask when their little ones are in the hospital?

Parents or grandparents of kids in the hospital should keep the lines of communication open with the people caring for their kids. Ask questions and just feel absolutely comfortable and free to do that. If something doesn't feel right or look right or you don't understand it, continue to ask questions. We see our parents and family members as partners. They know their kids much better than any of us do. They walk in our door and trust us with that which is most precious to them. I take that very seriously.

Are there things that we've learned during COVID-19 that will inform our patient safety approach when we move beyond it?

One thing that we learned early on is that we can be nimble, and we can move fast. I think it has helped us accelerate the pace of other work.

We've all learned how incredibly talented and dedicated our team is. Watching everyone morph the way they do their work in response to a pandemic.

Is there any motto that guides you?

Early in the pandemic, I saw a phrase that we actually posted in the command center. I was really motivated and comforted by it. “We are really ordinary people doing sacred work in extraordinary times.” Throughout my career, I have seen myself as an ordinary person doing sacred work whether that was taking care of patients in the NICU, being a nurse practitioner in a cardiac ICU, teaching undergraduate students or serving in this role, the recognition that the work is sacred has sort of been a foundation for me.