Healthcare News & Insights

Keep staff focused on patient safety: Proven strategies

Promoting a culture of patient safety should be at the forefront of all hospital executives’ minds all year round, but it may be especially wise during the summer months.

78405917Once summer’s in full swing, some hospitals report an anecdotal phenomenon known as the “July effect.” Supposedly, as would-be doctors, nurses and other healthcare pros graduate and start working in hospitals, mistakes that may compromise patient care are more likely to happen.

Whether this effect actually exists is debatable, but it’s a great jumping point for your hospital to double down on its safety efforts to erase this perception from people’s minds.

Plus, focusing on safety at a time when new staffers arrive is a good idea. Emphasizing the importance of patient safety to them from the start will likely lead to fewer errors down the road.

Engagement improves safety

Reinforcing the importance of safety in your hospital starts by engaging your workers – new hires and veterans alike – by focusing on improving factors such as quality, retention and productivity.

This effort is crucial to creating a safe hospital. In fact, according to a Gallup study of healthcare workers, those who were more engaged had a 15% increase in patient safety culture than workers with little employee engagement.

To boost engagement among your hospital’s staff, try these three strategies, courtesy of Gallup researchers:

  1. Allow staff to participate in the hospital’s planning process. Getting employee feedback before implementing any sweeping changes makes them feel valued.
  2. Take tangible actions toward a shared goal. The old adage is true: Actions speak louder than words. Moving beyond the planning stage and putting policies in place demonstrates a commitment to improvement, which is key to engaging staff.
  3. Monitor and make note of progress. Publicly recognize any positive progress employees make in achieving these goals, and continue to guide policies and initiatives in the right direction.

Best safety practices

As employee engagement increases, you can place more of your focus on promoting patient safety culture by incorporating the following practices in your hospital:

  • Have adequate staff on hand for each hospital shift. If too few doctors and nurses are scheduled for a shift, patient safety guidelines could fall to the wayside because of an increased workload. This also leads to burnout, which has a negative effect on employee engagement on its own.
  • Limit use of temporary workers. While you may not be able to reduce the number of staff who aren’t permanent fixtures, do your best to maintain consistency.
  • Encourage transparency. Staff should be able to ask questions and bring up concerns without any negative consequences.
  • Promote cooperation. Encourage doctors and nurses to work together as a team. This is especially important when the day gets busy so everyone can share the load.
  • Openly discuss errors. Going along with transparency, mistakes that do happen should be used as teaching experiences instead of excuses to punish staff. Talk about how the error could be prevented in the future, and ask for feedback from staff about what improvements would be helpful.

Above all, there should be a culture that promotes open communication at all levels, from execs to medical assistants, and everything in between. This alone will help hospitals overcome many hurdles to patient safety, and it’s vital in making staff members feel as though their efforts matter.

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