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Patient Safety Awareness Week for Health Professionals

By Jen Volland, Phd, Vice President of Program Development, NRC Health

March 8–14, 2020, is Patient Safety Awareness Week. Oftentimes, safety may be spoken about in the workplace, but is anything being done, or has the organization become complacent? The below are three items to check not only during the week, but periodically throughout the year—as well as some supplemental resources to help guide you:

  1. Safety huddles. 1

    In addition to between-shift huddles, organizations should engage in safety huddles. To be effective, safety huddles focus on both the patient and the workforce. These should be multi-disciplinary as much as possible, occur in the morning, and review both the incidents from the day prior and safety concerns for the next 24 hours. To avoid becoming complacent, staff should keep safety huddles to 15 minutes or less in length. To see the IHI methodology for sustaining and strengthening safety huddles, follow the link to their webpage for more information. http://www.ihi.org/resources/Pages/AudioandVideo/WIHI-Sustaining-and-Strengthening-Safety-Huddles.aspx

  1. Review the terminology being used.

    Words can have strong meanings and connotations. Bluewater Health, in Canada, has looked at their rates of abuse and the language being used. Violence against healthcare workers is not a new phenomenon, but it has reached epidemic levels and is now a serious concern,with three out of four nurses reporting physical or verbal abuse.3
    In response, Bluewater Health looked at the terminology being used, and made their aggression and violence policy more patient-centric.4 Aggressive actions are now called “responsive behaviors,” and every patient is screened with the goal of ensuring dignity, respect, and safety during what can be a difficult time for patients and families. The equivalent of a Patient Advisory Council reviewed the policy—even minor details such as the policy title. (The previous title, “For our safety and yours,” implied an us/them, so it was subsequently changed to the more inclusive “For everyone’s safety.)4 To see Bluewater Health’s revised policy, follow the link to the policy document.

  1. Take the AHRQ Patient Safety Survey.

    The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has designed a hospital survey to help hospitals assess the culture of safety within their institution. NRC Health can survey organizations using the safety survey; for more information email info@nrchealth.com. AHRQ also has many tools to help engage patients and their families in their healthcare for safer care, including “20 tips to help prevent medical errors: Patient fact sheet.” To access this additional supplemental information, follow the link to their webpage for more information: https://www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/care-planning/errors/20tips/index.html

1 http://www.wsha.org/wp-content/uploads/Worker-Safety_SafetyHuddleToolkit_3_27_15.pdf
2 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “Nurses Face Epidemic Levels of Violence at Work.” 2015. Retrieved from http://www.rwjf.org/en/library/articles-and news/2015/07/nurses-face-epidemic-levels-of-violence-at-work.html
3 Speroni, K.G., Fitch, T., Dawson, E., and Atherton, M. “Incidence and Cost of Nurse Workplace Violence Perpetuated by Hospital Patients or Patient Visitors.” 2014. Retrieved from http://www.jenonline.org/article/S0099-1767(13)00216-X/fulltext?cc=y=
4 http://nrchealth.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Bluewater-Case-Study-V9.pdf