5 Lessons About Patient Safety You Can Learn from the Super Bowl Teams

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This week's Super Bowl championship game featured the NFL’s top-ranked defense in both scoring and yards (Seahawks) versus the top-ranked offense in both scoring and yards (Broncos). Here are five lessons from LifeWings CEO, Steve Harden, that healthcare professionals can learn to emulate their success during patient safety or quality initiatives.

This week's Super Bowl championship game featured the NFL’s top-ranked defense in both scoring and yards (Seahawks) versus the top-ranked offense in both scoring and yards (Broncos). Both teams won their respective conferences this season, cruising to many dominant victories thanks to their depth, consistent excellence and impeccable game plans.

These two clubs are arguably the best teams in professional football this year. Here are five lessons that can be learned from them to emulate their success during patient safety or quality initiatives offered from Steve Harden, CEO of LifeWings.

1. They have great game plans.

Winning football teams follow a defined strategy in which virtually every step in a game is spelled out. Coaches script the first 25 plays that start the game; run plays, pass plays, etc. Consequently they can call a play with the assurance that it will be successful. Winning football teams rehearse the opening part of the game, almost the entire first half of the game, by planning the game before it even starts.

Patient safety work is worth the same effort. In the end, football is just a game, commitment to patient safety initiatives will actually save lives and impact families. A valuable resource used for learning how to create a winning game plan for implementing a patient safety initiative is a book entitled "Change the Culture, Change the Game." This book shows exactly what to do to get the desired results for a project.

2. They have great assistant head coaches.

Winning football teams have assistant head coaches who advise the head coach on offensive and defensive plays. A head coach has to manage 53 players, most of
whom have their own agendas. There's no way the head coach could do that all on his
own. His assistant head coaches specialize in either offense or defense and are critical to their team's success. For example the assistant head coach for offense (offensive coordinator) is generally in charge of managing all offensive players and assistant coaches, of designing specific offensive plays, of developing a general offensive game plan, and of calling the plays for the offense during the game.

In a very real sense medical teams consist of offensive coordinators for patient safety for the senior leader (head coach). Being this type of special advisor is a learned skill. One of the best resource used for learning how to do this is "The Trusted Advisor." An important key to a project's success is the ability to earn the trust and confidence of the "head coach." This book will teaches how to do that.

3. They know how to reach talented twenty-year-olds.

It is not enough for the coaches to have a great game plan, they must teach that game plan to really talented, rich, twenty-something professional athletes who come from all walks of life. Their meetings and training sessions are beautifully scripted with fabulous and simple visuals. They know how to reach their audience in a way that impacts behavior under stress.

As the leader of a patient safety project, medical professionals have much the same problem; how to change behavior, with education and training, of staff from all sorts of different backgrounds. One of the best resources on learning how to give professional presentations, the book "Presentation Zen", helps to create impactful presentations and effective slides.

4. They constantly work on the craft of coaching.

NFL football coaches are professionals at training and developing athletes. In patient safety projects, medical professionals need to be just as professional in training and developing staff to use the different skills and behaviors needed to prevent medical errors. To learn how to develop coaching skills nothing beats the book, "Coaching for Improved Work Performance."

5. They don't dwell on losing, they visualize winning.

Neither team in this year's Super Bowl had a perfect won-loss record this season. Both lost some heart-breaking games along the way. But unlike losing teams, they got over the losses to be the best this year. Bad teams never get over losing because they keep replaying their defeat in the theatre of their minds. Great players on great teams learn to throw yesterday's losses in the trash bin.

But no matter how big the loss, no matter how disappointing, medical professionals have to rise above it and stick with a plan to improve the situation that caused the loss. Patient safety projects are going to have some losses along the way. Influential physicians criticize efforts. Staff don't seem to "get it." Stay the course and know that the goal is well worth the pain. Saving lives is well worth the time and effort it takes in this to become effecient in this patient safety journey.

About LifeWings:
LifeWings Partners, LLC is a team of physicians, nurses, Toyota-trained Lean experts, health risk managers, astronauts, military surgeons, and flight crews. Our team was the first in the United States to study the best practices of organizations with high reliability, and successfully adapt their strategies for use in healthcare. We have distilled the methodology used in commercial aviation, military aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, and cutting-edge manufacturing to assist healthcare organizations create safe, efficient, and high quality hospitals and clinics.
Follow LifeWings @LifeWingsLLC.

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Stephen Harden
Lifewings Partners, LLC
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Angela Myers
LifeWings Partners, LLC
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