Create a culture of safety: Leadership strategies for healthcare

April 26, 2024   |   Healthcare Professional

Mistakes happen in any job with a high volume of services, but stakes are higher in healthcare. This makes creating a culture of safety essential to every healthcare leader. It’s the job of healthcare leaders to anticipate safety risks to try to prevent them from occurring in the first place and then mitigate the risks when they occur. 

Nurturing a culture of safety extends beyond mere compliance. Not only is the right insurance partner there for your healthcare company in the case of an incident, but your broker should proactively help you anticipate and prevent them.

Actionable strategies to foster a culture of safety

Establishing transparency and accountability is at the heart of creating a culture of healthcare safety. This means encouraging non-punitive reporting of errors and near-misses so you can identify any problems and develop strategies to prevent future incidents. Staff will be less likely to disclose incidents if your team fears punitive action or firing. Sharing the outcomes of incident investigations without judgment and then taking steps to address them reinforces your organization’s commitment to safety.

Develop and use safety metrics

Creating a safer healthcare environment starts with establishing clear, measurable safety metrics. These metrics serve as a benchmark for assessing the effectiveness of safety protocols and identifying areas for improvement. 

Establish and then regularly monitor any likely safety risks for your industry, such as:

  • Hand hygiene compliance
  • Patient fall rates
  • Medication errors
  • Accidental HIPAA disclosure
  • Needlestick injuries

When these incidents occur, brainstorm ways to reduce safety risks with your team, other industry leaders and your insurance broker.  

Integrate safety into clinical decision support systems

Incorporating safety protocols into electronic health records (EHRs) and clinical decision support systems (CDSS) can significantly mitigate risks associated with patient care. Customizable alerts and checklists ensure that crucial safety steps, such as verifying patient identities and double-checking medication dosages, are not overlooked.

Introducing safety processes that become second nature to staff can keep your employees and patients safer too. For example, regular training sessions on the proper handling and disposal of needlesticks or hand hygiene can remind staff to take proactive steps to keep themselves and others safer.

Ensure clinicians are not overworking

Many healthcare staff work long hours and in multiple positions to make ends meet or start a side hustle. Some states limit the number of hours certain licensed clinicians are able to work in a week, but this varies depending on your location and industry.

As a healthcare leader, it’s important to ensure your staff have the physical and mental ability to manage their jobs and make good decisions. 

Even for clinicians who do not work overtime or night shifts, addressing burnout is essential for patient safety. Consider offering a comprehensive wellness program to cater to your team’s physical, emotional, and mental health. Access to counseling services, stress management resources and work-life balance initiatives can improve your overall safety culture.

Secure prescription drugs

The theft of prescription drugs, particularly opioids, poses a dual threat to patient safety and public health. All healthcare settings managing prescription drugs have stringent security policies to prevent drug diversion, but many places don’t also have a culture of preventing them. This is because some settings are known for looking the other way when a clinician wants to deliver a prescription to a patient who needs it urgently. With the best of intentions, clinicians will override the automated dispensing cabinets. However, this makes it hard to track when someone is stealing prescriptions. 

Uphold your company’s policy, educate staff on the signs of drug diversion and establish clear protocols for reporting suspicious activity.

Protect yourself with professional liability insurance

Professional liability insurance for healthcare businesses, also called malpractice insurance, professional indemnity, or errors and omissions insurance, is vital. Even if you’re not at fault, professional liability insurance protects you and your employees if you’re ever named in a malpractice lawsuit.

CM&F professional liability insurance policies include workplace liability insurance, providing coverage for claims of bodily injury or property damage brought by clients. 

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