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Safe! Caregivers Who Feel Cared For Bring Their Best Game

Monday, May 07, 2018
Geri Lynn Baumblatt MA and Dr. Roni Zeiger

•   I feel guilty taking vacation because I know we’re understaffed right now.
•   Do I feel safe walking from the parking lot to the hospital?
•   Do I feel safe at work from injuries, falls, equipment issues…?
•   Is my job secure?
•   If I report this problem, will I get blamed for it?
•   I don’t know which is harder: taking care of patients all day at work, or caring for my sick loved one every other waking hour.
These are some examples of concerns that come up on safety culture surveys at hospitals. Caregivers and staff are often on alert or surveillance mode throughout their shifts, not just for their patients’ safety, but for their own safety and well being. In some organizations, this includes going to or coming from work: crossing through dangerous intersections on their way in.
At first, it may sound trivial – but it’s not a good way to start or end your day – dodging traffic and worrying about your own safety. While we remove carpets to reduce patient falls and add checks to ensure the right intervention is being offered to the right patient, how to we ensure our caregivers and staff feel safe?
We all know patient-centricity doesn’t work without attention to person-centricity of employees who deliver an experience where people feel safe and cared for. Sometimes the lowest hanging fruit to improve patient safety is to improve the physical and psychological well being of the caregivers. Healthcare is about relationships and complex interactions, so staff can only interact well with patients and families if they feel safe and at ease. It allows them to focus on the needs of others.
Employees are the best source of ideas
One approach: regularly survey staff with validated questions to assess strengths and weaknesses of the culture at work from their perspective. This should include open-ended questions asking for suggestions. After all, staff themselves are often the best source of ideas on how to improve the local culture. For example:
A nurse suggested that every month they celebrate a useful safety report and the person who reported it.
A physician suggested someone should be available to who staff can talk to confidentially for emotional support when they feel burned out.
While some suggestions might be on the organization’s to-do list, hearing what’s important to the caregivers can help prioritize where to start. Staff who feel cared for provide better and safer care.

Geri Lynn Baumblatt MA, For the last 20 years, Geri has worked to help people understand health conditions and procedures, orient them to their diagnoses, make more informed decisions about their care, and partner with their care teams.  She oversaw the creation of the Emmi program library, and she regularly speaks and serves on patient engagement, patient experience, health literacy, shared decision making, health design, family caregiving, and heath communication panels for organizations like AHRQ, the Brookings Institute, Stanford Medicine X, and the Center for Plain Language. She serves on the editorial board for the Journal of Patient Experience, is on the board of the Society for Participatory Medicine, and published a chapter in Transformative Healthcare Practice through Patient Engagement (IGI Global). She currently consults on patient engagement, family caregiving, and health communication. Follow her on Twitter @GeriLynn

Dr. Roni Zeiger is a social entrepreneur and CEO of The Patient Safety Group, focusing on helping health systems improve safety and quality by improving their culture. He is a practicing physician and the former Chief Health Strategist at Google. On Twitter: @rzeiger

Tags: communication, experience, healthcare, listening
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