Healthcare organizations are increasingly realizing the importance of creating a safety culture within their work environment for staff in order to, in turn, increase patient safety.
Having a solid safety culture is important for any healthcare institution because safety management systems cannot work without the active participation and collaboration of all medical staff and their representatives.
Fostering this collaboration means building a safety culture where all staff members are included in your facility’s safety and health programs. This includes equipping them with tools and training to recognize both good and bad safety practices. Through these steps and meaningful cultural changes, staff should feel empowered to a level where they feel comfortable advocating for the safety of themselves and their coworkers.
However, your institution’s commitment to safety extends well beyond the establishment of overarching safe practices, and for many healthcare institutions, requires a fundamental change in the facility’s culture for the staff medical professionals. The biggest challenge to moving toward safer patient care is changing the culture from one where staff blame each other for mistakes, to one where mistakes are used as learning and improvement opportunities.
Before a safety management system is put in place, establishing staff based safety means first analyzing the existing measures of safety culture within the workplace. This can be done through safety culture evaluation tools which can either be staff focused, leadership focused, or a mixture of both.
Some of these measurement instruments look at perspectives from management regarding what is occurring, and/or what needs to occur in relation to formal patient safety operating practices and policies. One type of tool that can be used by management is a management self-assessment tool focused on patient safety called ‘Strategies for Leadership: An Organizational Approach to Patient Safety’’.
This tool, which is meant to be used by teams with members of mixed status including direct care providers and management, is a survey which lists out important areas of patient safety. Leadership is asked to rank the level to which leadership priorities such as fostering teamwork and involving patients and families in care delivery are being implemented on a scale of 1-5. This tool helps to inform management on cultural areas that need improvement and motivate managers to take action to actually improve the areas that are lacking.
Other types of safety culture measurement tools look at staff attitudes and perceptions instead. Instead of focusing on top-down management viewpoints, these focus on what happens in the daily life of staff from the perspective of workers that have the most direct impact on patient safety, like direct care medical providers.
Another type of survey, these assessments ask staff to self-report their perspectives on their work culture at the most pivotal points in patient care within various healthcare settings. Generally, this survey will include a list of statements regarding their work culture, and rate the level to which they agree or disagree with each statement. These surveys can help to uncover what type of culture a healthcare institution has, like hierarchical or group oriented, from the perspective of direct care providers.
The scores from these different types of measurement surveys can be used to indicate the work environment’s standing in different areas of focus including teamwork and openness of communication. The results can also be split up to measure and compare scores from different units within the institution, between different provider types, or for the overarching organization as a whole.
Cultural assessments are a valuable tool that can be used for one or more reasons within a healthcare facility. They identify the standing of the current safety culture in order to find ways to improve it, evaluate patient safety programs and/or interventions and track changes, help in both internal and external benchmarking, and fulfill regulatory requirements.
They also help to raise awareness about patient safety not just within management, but throughout an entire facility’s staff. These assessments remind staff that the most important goal is to deliver safe and effective patient care, and that in order to do this, they must work together to foster a positive work environment and culture.