Hospitals focus on training staff members, engaging patients about safety issues

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The National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) has sponsored Patient Safety Awareness Week (PSAW) since 2002 as a means of making caregivers, other hospital staff, and community members more aware of patient safety issues.

This year, the event is being observed from March 7 to 13, and facilities across the country are using the opportunity to educate and involve their staff and patients.

"The origin of the focus was really to provide a week not just for heightened awareness about patient safety, but very specifically a focus on the role of the patient and the consumer in the work," says Diane C. Pinakiewicz, MBA, president of the NPSF, which has expanded the scope of the week by further focusing on the relationship between patients and healthcare providers.

This year's PSAW theme is "Let's Talk: Healthy Conversations for Safer Healthcare." Members of the NPSF's Stand Up for Patient Safety program received a host of materials from the NPSF to help them coordinate the week in conjunction with the theme.

"We've developed a whole set of tools focused on two hot topics: getting to the right diagnosis and healthcare-acquired infections [HAI]," says Pinakiewicz. The NPSF used its well-known "Ask Me Three" template that urges patients to use the following three questions when receiving care:

  • What is my main problem?
  • What do I need to do?
  • Why is it important for me to do this?

In the PSAW toolkits, patients and caregivers are coached to use these three questions in conjunction with receiving the right diagnosis and preventing HAIs. The materials packets are created in collaboration with other healthcare groups, such as the World Health Organization, Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, Society of Healthcare Epidemiology of America, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Nonmembers can find more information and materials available in honor of the week on the NPSF Web site.

Whether your facility has observed PSAW for years or has just started using the week as a means to enhance awareness of patient safety across your facility, there are many events you can hold to engage patients and staff members.

Spreading the word about a culture of safety
Anne Marie Pizzi, RNC-OB, accreditation and patient safety specialist at Saint Clare's Health System in Denville, NJ, knows what it's like to try to organize events during PSAW without a strong culture of safety present at the organization. She has seen her facility's culture of safety radically improve in the few years she has planned activities for PSAW and hopes that 2010 will show even further advancement.

When Saint Clare's originally began participating in PSAW in 2007, Pizzi found that staff members were reluctant to talk to them about safety concerns.

Fast-forward to 2010: Pizzi and her fellow accreditation and patient safety specialists have made remarkable progress toward creating a culture of safety and transparency, and as part of this, have a more organized, facility-supported approach to celebrating PSAW.

During the 2009 PSAW, staff entered a poster board competition on the topic of the NPSGs. Pizzi and her partners have a small budget, so they explored creative ways to entice staff members to enter. They provided the poster board supplies to reduce individual costs. In addition, the reward for winning the contest was a premium parking spot for one month. The endoscopy group won with its poster about the Universal Protocol, Pizzi says.

"It's funny, we found that staff like to be recognized when they do a good job," says Pizzi. "They don't require huge bonuses—they'd like a raise—but it was just finding something that would make them happy."

Pizzi has planned a similar poster board competition for this year's PSAW and hopes to receive more entries than the six she got in 2009. During the week, Pizzi and her partners visit each of Saint Clare's facilities and set up the poster boards in the lobby. Volunteers will work these poster board tables and hand out literature about the week to staff members and visitors.

Pizzi runs educational games during PSAW and has found that staff members look forward to these activities and have even come to her with ideas and concerns about safety practices. A favorite is a Jeopardy!-style PowerPoint game, says Pizzi.

In keeping with this year's theme of discussing safe healthcare practices, Pizzi says Saint Clare's is concentrating on the Universal Patient Compact, a document produced by the NPSF that focuses on the relationship between patients and caregivers.

"Sometimes we forget to include the patient in our healthcare planning and conversations," says Pizzi. "So it's really bringing that to the forefront for the staff and really [getting] them to embrace this as, 'We need to partner with our patients in a way to give them better care.' "