Over 50% of Medical Staff Will Not Speak up for Patient Safety: Six Things We Must Do to Fix This

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The AHRQ recently released the summary of the data from all of the Safety Climate Surveys conducted last year and the national data about the willingness to speak up in our nation's hospitals paints a dismal picture... 50% of medical staff will not speak up for patient safety, and LifeWings offers six steps to empower them to speak up and save lives. http://www.saferpatients.com

This is a serious patient safety issue, and there are six things that must be done now to fix this.

Last month LifeWings was conducting a site assessment for a large, very well-run hospital in the mid-west. One of the colleagues watched as a physician, dressed in his street clothes, flew into a patient's OR holding room to discuss that morning's surgical procedure.

He was completely oblivious to, or totally disregarded, the large and easily seen warning signs indicating the patient was under isolation procedures for infection precautions.

All of the other staff in the room were completely gowned and gloved as per policy. During the surgeon's entire visit, not one staff member said anything to the surgeon about his violation of the policy (and there were several that came and went during his time in the room).

When asked about the event later by the colleague, none of the staff could give any reason for their failure to speak up. When the event was later brought to the attention of the surgeon, he was dumbfounded no one said something to him. He said he would have welcomed the input and been thankful for it.

When the story was told to the unit administrators, they said that if there was ever a surgeon at their hospital who would have been open to a stop-the-line assertive statement from the staff, it would have been that surgeon.

What is especially troubling about this incident is that it is so common across the country.

AHRQ just released the summary of the data from all of the Safety Climate Surveys conducted last year. The national data about the willingness to speak up in our nation's hospitals paints a dismal picture: (AHRQ Numbers). At first glance, the data doesn't look so bad, but if you look at all three responses together the staff are saying, "Sure, I will speak up or ask questions--as long as the person I am talking to is not senior to me." The data tells us that if any hierarchy is present in the interaction, over 50% of staff will not speak up.

"This is a serious patient safety issue," says Steve Harden, CEO of LifeWings patient safety consultants, "and these six things must be done now to fix this."

1. Provide inter-disciplinary training on how to speak up. Telling is not training. Training means telling the learner why assertiveness is important, demonstrating through video or role modeling how to speak up, providing an opportunity for the learner to practice speaking up, and providing feedback to the learner on how they did in the guided practice session.

2. Ensure teams train as teams. You must have a LWP Team Training variety of staff positions in the training sessions so that learners can practice making an assertive statement to someone senior to them. In LifeWings training, they insist physicians participate so nurses and other staff can hear the physician tell them, "It is okay for you to talk to me like that. That's how I want you to do it."

3. Adopt and publish a 'Zero Tolerance' policy for "payback." The number one reason staff say they don't speak up is that if they do, physicians can make their lives miserable; and when that payback happens, "Administration won't support me." Leadership action on retribution for speaking up must be as swift and as public as HR and privacy concerns will allow.

4. Embed assertiveness training in new-hire training and mentoring/precepting programs.

5.Revise P&P Manuals with clear and unambiguous directives requiring the use of stop-the-line language.

6. Celebrate loudly and often those nurses who speak up and stop the line to protect a patient's safety or quality of care. Send them handwritten "thank you" notes. Put a laudatory written report into their personnel file. Let them know you care. Behavior that gets rewarded gets repeated. Steve Harden, CEO of LIfeWings, adds, "Seriously folks, 5 out of 10 staff not willing to use stop-the-line language with someone more senior to them is unacceptable for patient safety. Let's fix this. "

Watch video on LifeWings: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LV_M0zIuan8.

About LifeWings LLC:
LifeWings has documented sustainable improvements in reliability, safety, and quality by implementing these three steps. The LifeWings coaching cadre of pilots, astronauts, physicians, nurses and Toyota-trained Lean experts train more than 13,000 administrators, physicians and staff per year. Measurable results are guaranteed in all LifeWings’ programs. Documented return on investment typically exceeds 300%. To find out more, please visit http://www.saferpatients.com or https://www.facebook.com/ LifeWingsSaferPatients or follow us on Twitter @LifeWingsLLC.

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Stephen Harden

Angela Myers
LifeWings Partners, LLC
901-457-7505
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