Leigh Truss | Director of Quality & Patient Safety, Emory University Hospital, Emory University Hospital at Wesley Woods and Emory University Orthopedic & Spine Hospital
“Patient safety is not a job, it’s a way of life. I believe that those who are called to work in healthcare are called in love, to heal,” says Leigh Truss, 43, when asked what motivates her to do her job as Director of Quality & Patient Safety for Emory University Hospital, Emory University Hospital at Wesley Woods and Emory University Orthopedic & Spine Hospital.
Leigh learned her love of helping others from her mother, Thelma E. Truss, who was a licensed clinical social worker at Grady Hospital for over 30 years. Two years ago, Leigh’s father was disabled by a stroke. “My mother is now his full-time caregiver,” she says. “Watching her aid in his activities of daily living and his rehabilitation has given me a newfound appreciation for her and her superpowers.”
With such a compassionate role model to learn from, it is no surprise that Leigh is considered a superhero in her own right by her staff and those in her community. Since the onset of COVID she has worked tirelessly to navigate ever-changing protocols and develop the safest processes for both patients and her staff. “I believe that caregivers need care too: I support self-care, resilience training and work-life balance efforts.”
While Leigh was not on the front lines of COVID herself, she was working behind the scenes supporting those that were. “I oversee the Infection Prevention Department,” Leigh explains. “The manager and her team of infection preventionists were inundated with calls 24 hours per day, 7 days a week for some time. Because they are the experts, they got very little downtime. Watching them work and experience sleepless nights as a leader was tough. It forced us to get creative with call schedules and shorten the length of time they were on call.”
Leigh says that the social unrest during the pandemic was an added weight to her and members of her team. But she was inspired when a medical student at Emory soon created what they called the ‘White Coats for Black Lives Demonstration.’ The idea caught on fast and soon seven hospitals across metro Atlanta were participating, with doctors, nurses and administrative staff gathering outside to kneel for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time George Floyd was held down by police. Leigh herself participated with coworkers and staff members of her team.