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Planning ahead to change behaviors: Patient Safety First campaign focuses staff and patients on a common goal

Patient safety

After reading this article, you will be able to:

  • Discuss the strategies used by Abington Memorial Hospital to highlight patient safety

Keeping many new patient safety topics and initiatives fresh in the minds of frontline caregivers can be a challenge.

To ensure that staff members were thinking about a new aspect of safe patient care each month and to educate employees and patients about patient safety goals, Abington (PA) Memorial Hospital (AMH) started Patient Safety First, a hospitalwide campaign focused on behaviors and actions. Originally launched in 2008, staff members decided to continue building on Patient Safety First after seeing success in its first year. The program was originally developed as a means of coordinating the large amount of safety information disseminated to frontline caregivers.

“It was a program to help us focus, inform, and partner with our employees and patients to get the patient safety message out,” says Robert C. Giannini, NHA, safety/quality specialist at AMH’s Center for Patient Safety & Quality. “It’s really letting staff and our patients be on the same page for the month.”

New month, new topic

This year, AMH created communication strategies for internal staff use as well as some specifically for patients. At the end of 2008, staff members outlined a full calendar year of topics for each month in 2009 to help show staff members that the program is a part of the organization’s underlying mission, says Giannini.

“We do change our goals based on our priorities for that year,” he says. “People are seeing that this isn’t going away and it’s part of our culture.”

To really drive home the idea of changing behaviors to improve patient safety, Giannini and his staff designed the campaign to be apparent in the everyday work environment.

Depending on the month’s theme, the topic receives attention on screen savers, in the Nursing Notes internal newsletter, in posted educational pieces, and via patient safety coaches, who spread the theme to fellow caregivers.

The patient safety coaches meet monthly to discuss new hospital initiatives. Safety coaches at AMH are frontline caregivers who are unit-based and share a specific message with their colleagues. This coaching team is effective in spreading behaviors and new projects or ideas with their peers.

“We do have safety coaches in each area of the hospital, and [the monthly Patient Safety First topic] would be part of the theme of the meeting that month,” says Linda Mimm, RN, BC, DL, CPHQ, safety/quality specialist at AMH’s Center for Patient Safety & Quality. “It’s not just a piece of paper that goes out, it’s a clear team effort getting the message out also.”

Giannini and his staff ensure that hospital employees understand how each month’s theme fits in with The Joint Commission’s (formerly JCAHO) National Patient Safety Goals (NPSG) as well as the organization’s annual goals. Some of the topics are reflective of pressing issues in the field, such as CMS’ never events or other quality initiatives.

Equally important to the success of this initiative has been the nursing department’s ability to partner and plan with the finance department, says Elizabeth Medina, RN, BSN, CCRN, nurse manager for the cardiac surgery and cardiac ICUs at AMH. After all, nurses are a part of the team targeted by this initiative. “We have a good support structure within the nursing department because we partner with finance,” says Medina. “What gives us the capability to partner with things like this is we structure into our own unit budgets for the fiscal year training and orientation hours that allow me to pull out specific [full-time equivalent] hours [each] month to get people off of my unit, to go to meetings, and then also to get the publications onto the bulletin boards in the units and posted to the unit intranet sites.”

Patient education

Staff members in the quality/safety department develop patient education materials to alert patients to each month’s theme. For example, in January, AMH distributed flyers informing patients that hand washing was a focus that month and asked them to be partners in their own safe care.

The patient education flyers are posted on a bulletin board in each room and placed in patients’ folders (each patient receives a folder when he or she enters a specific unit, whether via new admission or transfer). Staff nurses introduce the monthly patient safety theme while reviewing other important information about patients’ stays.

Overall, the initiative has helped the hospital as a whole incorporate many aspects of patient safety into patient care and focus on specific topics for improvement. AMH has seen an increase in reports of concerns, suggestions, and patient safety events from staff members and patients.

“Working in the safety/quality department, it really helps us focus as an organization on a theme,” says Mimm, who tries to incorporate each month’s theme into her task of supporting and publicizing the NPSGs. “When there’s so much going on in healthcare and so many demands on the staff, it really helps us all focus.”


Adapted from Patient Safety Monitor, December 2009, HCPro, Inc.

12-month Patient Safety First calendar

Abington (PA) Memorial Hospital (AMH) used the following list of themes for each month in 2009. These were planned in advance so staff members had an idea of what to look forward to:

  • January: “Wash” (hand washing)
  • February: “Briefings” (caregiver meetings about patient condition)
  • March: “C.A.R.E.” (communication, access to information, resources, and education—AMH’s daily care plan)
  • April: “Identify” (patient identification)
  • May: “Be Alert” (awareness of medication safety)
  • June: “Report” (critical tests and results)
  • July: “Protect” (provision of a safe environment to reduce adverse events)
  • August: “Communicate” (focus on active communication)
  • September: “Prevent” (awareness of how to prevent patient falls)
  • October: “Immunize” (focus on staff immunization)
  • November: “Reconcile” (better reconciliation of medications)
  • December: “Speak Up” (preventing an adverse event from occurring by “stopping the line”)