Patient Safety Is All About Culture

Posted by Kristin Baird on June 26th, 2012 • No Comments »

Last week, I spoke at the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations (SDAHO) where they were kicking off their work with the Partnership for Patients (PfP) and the Hospital Engagement Network (HEN). They are a part of a national goal to reduce hospital-related injuries by 1.8 million and hospital-related deaths by 60,000 over three years. These are some big, hairy audacious goals (BHAGs)!

If you read my blog, books, or newsletter articles, you know that our work focuses on culture. Although we are most widely known for work on culture as it relates to the patient experience, the same principles apply to a culture of safety. After all, safety and patient experience are inextricably linked.

Talking with healthcare leaders about culture as it relates to safety is a fabulous experience.  I love seeing the light bulbs go off as they begin connecting the dots. Many organizations work within the Just Culture model to foster accountability in a blame-free environment. This is a vital part of a culture of safety, but it’s not the entire story. Using the 5 essentials from my book, Raising the Bar on Service Excellence, I applied them to safety and talked about the leader’s need to organize culture goals around priority, people, processes, purpose, and passion. And whether or not the focus is on service or safety, the same leadership skills apply….

  1. Priority: Are you making safety a clear priority? Is it part of the strategic plan, a standing agenda item, and are you talking passionately about goals and progress?
  2. People: What are you putting in place to hire for safety and engage every person in finding solutions? Do all managers know how to ask behavior-based interview questions? Are you rewarding and recognizing innovation and teamwork?
  3. Processes: This is two-fold—are you supporting process improvement and holding every department accountable for engaging in it? What processes have you put in place for yourself to ensure that you are supporting improvements? Are you personally rounding and engaging with people at the front lines? Is rounding supporting their efforts?
  4. Purpose: What are you doing to help each and every person see how he connects to the bigger safety goals?

And lastly…

5.   Are you passionate about making a difference? Can the people around you see your passion for excellence? Do they hear you tell stories and inspire their hard work?

As an industry, we’ve set some lofty but attainable goals to deliver the best, safest care in the world. Our patients deserve that. The only way we will get there is through leadership that lives, eats, and breathes it as a top priority.

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Baird Consulting


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