EMS Week Spotlight: Lee Varner

May 23, 2017    |   By: Alex Christgen, BS, CPPS, CPHQ

The Center for Patient Safety is proud of our diverse team and is especially proud of our Patient Safety Director, Lee Varner, MSEMS, EMT-P, CPPS. Having spent much of his time in EMS throughout his career, he now enters his third year with the Center in a supporting role. He is a valuable resource to all of our participating organizations. We recently sat down with Lee and asked him a few questions…

Q: What first interested you in healthcare?
I’ve always had an interest in science but it wasn’t until I took an EMT class that I made a connection between science and helping people.  From there I then went on to paramedic school and worked in various roles in EMS but some of my most rewarding years were working as a frontline paramedic.

Q: Why is patient safety important to you?
I find the topic of patient safety extremely interesting, specifically, understanding why mistakes occur in healthcare.  This in turn has offered me an opportunity to learn about new principles, philosophies and concepts and then how to apply them to EMS. 

Q: What do you miss most about working on the front lines (or in a care setting)?
I still live in the same community where I worked as a paramedic.  When I see an ambulance I always look to see if I know the crew  and wonder what type of call they might be running on.  I think it was that “wonder”  that I miss the most as you never knew what to expect one duty day from the next as each day was always different.  Some shifts operated at a very high level of intensity that might leave you drained physically, mentally and sometimes emotionally.  But I found it was the teamwork and coordinated efforts of everyone working together to help others very appealing.  

Q: What do you enjoy most about working at the Center for Patient Safety?
There are many areas I find rewarding, one of which is being part of a such a committed team .  In addition, the opportunity to always be learning from each other as we all come unique backgrounds in healthcare.  I also appreciate the culture of the Center as we truly practice what we preach when it comes to working in a culture that supports a model of shared accountability.  It’s a learning environment where we are always focused on improving the quality of our services that to the many organizations that we work with.  

Q: Based on your experience in the healthcare provider setting, and your experience at the Center, what is your message to other [nurses/LTC/EMS/Hospitals]?
As a provider, working day in and day out it’s easy to forget the positive impact that you make in people’s lives.  Recently our local  EMS responded to a family member and I was so thankful to see them.  My message is to never underestimate the difference you make in peoples lives.   

Q: What is your greatest achievement around patient safety (either in a previous job or current job)?
I would have to say it’s been the EMSFORWARD safety campaign that we started last year.  The project has been a collaborative effort at CPS so I can’t take all the credit but more importantly it’s been rewarding to watch it grow and gain more attention

Q: What was the last book you read?
The last book I read was “Talk like Ted”, the 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds by Carmine Gallo.  The book offered me a lot of inspiration in the development of patient safety content and material as we work with EMS

Q: Who do you admire?
I admire the many EMS professionals who are out there working every day  behind the scenes often with little recognition or support. 

Q: Anything else you’d like to share – interesting tidbits about where you’ve lived, where you’ve worked, about spouse, children or grandchildren, etc?
My wife and I recently downsized and moved to a town home on main street in Saint Charles, Missouri.  We are close to the Katy trail where we can bike and run as well as enjoy the many activities taking place in the community.


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The Center for Patient Safety believes that collaboration and sharing are the best ways to drive improvement. We strive to provide the right solutions and resources to improve healthcare safety and quality.