Do the safety dance

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Emily Mongan
Emily Mongan

Imagine for a moment that the long-term care industry came with a set of commandments. I'm not referring to any government-set regulations that you need to adhere to in order to get paid; I'm talking carved in stone, universally accepted tenets for providers.

On your imaginary set of commandments, what would rank as number one?

To me, it should be safety. An assurance of safety for both residents and employees, that helps cut down on the risk of slips and falls, lawsuits and OSHA fines. The Ten Commandments for long-term care may not actually exist, but there are still dozens of incentives for giving safety top billing in your facility.

The benefits that a widespread culture of safety can bring to healthcare providers were recently captured as part of large-scale study recently published in the American Journal of Medical Quality.

Researchers field tested a training program called Crew Resource Management in eight departments of an academic medical center, delivered through day-long retreats, tools and conflict management role playing.  

CRM — which has roots in the airline industry, where safety is definitely a priority — focuses on improving communication, leadership and decision making practices among workers. The end goal? Employees who function better under unpredictable or demanding situations, are are more likely to report (and learn from) potentially harmful errors.

Results of the six-year study found the training program not only worked, but “significantly” helped increase staff perceptions of patient safety, communication about errors, communication openness and continuous improvement within the organization.

Teamwork within specific departments of the hospital increased 6%, and teamwork across all departments grew 4%. The training also may have been linked to reductions in adverse events, researchers noted.

While the study was carried out in a hospital, those benefits could easily applied to a long-term care setting, where interdepartmental teamwork is a must and errors can potentially carry big consequences.

Engagement and endorsement of CRM training from facility leadership is needed in order for a safety culture transformation to succeed, the study's authors note. They also stress that any safety intervention must have a way to gauge effectiveness, and send feedback on potential improvements to frontline staff “who are invested in providing the best care possible for patients in every environment.”

There's another addition for our imaginary, ideal long-term care commandments: providing the best care possible, in any environment. The best care for patients, and the best work environment for employees — they're obvious goals, to be sure. But without an emphasis on safety, those goals would be nearly impossible to reach.

Follow Emily Mongan @emmongan.


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.