Medical error is the third leading cause of death in America, with more than 200,000 people dying unnecessarily each year. And the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted both patient and caregiver safety.
To bring awareness to the issue, David Mayer is going to walk 125 miles over 10 days in honor of patient safety and the caregiver crisis. He's a former anesthesiologist who now leads the MedStar Institute and is the CEO of the Patient Safety Movement Foundation, working to help achieve zero preventable deaths from hospital errors.
As frontline workers struggle to protect themselves and treat patients under these trying circumstances, Mayer says there will be even more burnout.
"There's gonna be even more people leaving the field and saying, 'I'm done.' So that's why I'm walking," he says. "I’m walking in support of those in the front lines, who we need to do a better job of protecting, so they can do a better job of protecting the patients and families they take care of."
Mayer says suicide and depression rates in the health care field are higher than the general population and the rate of workers leaving the field continues to grow.
Mayer starts his trek Friday at Sloan Park in Arizona and will hit all nine Major League Baseball Cactus League Stadiums. He originally planned to start his walk in Milwaukee at Miller Park in honor of Judy Burrows — a Greenfield woman who recently passed away from preventable medical error complications.
Although Mayer's plans were modified due to the pandemic, he doesn't plan to stop walking after he completes 125 miles. He intends to virtually walk across the country, walking in different states when it's safe to do so while following safety and social distancing guidelines.
"[I'm 67], my running days are over, but walking has always sort of been my release, my exercise — both for physical as well as mental well-being ... To me walking is like meditation, it's reflective time where I can think," says Mayer.
You can follow his 125 Walk For Patient Safety on Twitter and Instagram. You can also log your own miles for patient safety through Charity Miles. Mayer says so far 17 million steps and over 7,000 miles have been logged by others across the country.
"This is the last thing that I can do to really try to make a difference," says Mayer. "Like Forrest Gump, I'll keep walking and I'll keep doing it until healthcare is safer."