For years now, the healthcare industry has known the importance of a blame-free environment in building a culture of safety. This simple concept has helped organizations to make great strides in preventing harm. But not all organizations have brought that same thinking across the system and out of the safety silo. It applies in the patient experience too.
Sometimes blame is overt like when one department openly points the finger at another department for a patient’s dissatisfaction. “Lab never gets the results back to us on time.” Or, “Nursing didn’t get the order in correctly.” Or, “I’d like to help but they won’t let me.”
But other times, blame can be sneakier. “It was their program. It didn’t work. They never included me in the planning.” Statements like these are also blaming. People can get bent out of shape when they aren’t consulted in decision-making and sabotage success, then blame the poor outcomes on “them.”
A few weeks ago, I was talking with a COO about his hospital’s scores being the lowest in their three hospital system. He kept talking about how “their” program failed. He was referring to an initiative launched by one of the hospitals to try to improve scores across the system. He was clearly upset that he had not had a voice in its creation or execution so he didn’t have respect or buy-in for the effort.
Blame loves to partner with victim-thinking and even sabotage.
The first step in creating a blame-free culture is being aware of the many faces of blame. You’ll never get to “we, us and our” thinking if you allow blame patterns to persist.