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Are Hospitals Really Serious About Safety?

December 17, 2015


Select International works in every industry. I occasionally get to spend time with our “safety” team. They are psychologists and consultants with a deep understanding of how companies address safety. Most other industries are primarily concerned with the safety of their employees, as opposed to healthcare, where employee safety is important, but patient safety is paramount.186344387

These are companies in industries that are inherently dangerous like mining and oil and heavy manufacturing. The safety of their employees is their number one priority on a day to day basis and it shows in how they operate. Our consultants tell us stories of how safety is ingrained in everything they do. They don’t go up or down steps without a hand on a handrail and start every meeting talking about safety. They are committed, every minute of every day, to completely eliminating employee injuries. It’s the right thing to do for the employees and for the company. It permeates every inch of the organization and is foremost on everyone’s mind. They do this while they are still going about the daily routine of running the business, but they commit money, resources, and energy to safety at every level of the organization.

Nearly two decades ago, healthcare realized that for all the good we do, we put patients at risk at a rate that would be shocking and unacceptable in other industries. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about patient safety and have certainly made strides, but the recent data is disappointing. Sure, healthcare services are complex, but healthcare organizations are also full of some of the brightest people in the world and the entire mission is to take care of patients. A manufacturing plant’s primary mission is to make a good product and a profit, but, can they make safety a top priority and essentially eliminate errors?

Our people who’ve spent time in both environments tell us that it’s a cultural issue – it’s that simple. Keeping people safe in some companies is built into every interaction, every thought, every process – it’s what they do. In hospitals, they don’t see that level of commitment or focus. Patient safety, too often, is another thing that we do. It’s another program or a new process. We don’t see a culture where every physician, administrator, nurse, and front line staff member makes patient safety their number one priority in everything they do.

Our recent white paper and webinar are a great example. When some hospitals sought to eliminate patient harm in the operating room by adopting a checklist – they failed. Not because a checklist doesn’t work (it’s good enough for airlines!) – but because they failed to build a safety culture into the process.

How do we make patient safety everyone’s number one priority? First start by building that expectation into your recruiting, hiring, and selection system.

 Patient Safety

Bryan Warren Bryan Warren is the President of J3 Personica, a consulting, assessment, training, and coaching firm, and a guest blogger for PSI. Bryan is an expert in progressive talent strategies, with a particular focus on leader and physician selection and development.