PRINT This Page 
RETURN To Article 

NPSF kicks off Patient Safety Awareness Week

The National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) has kicked off its annual Patient Safety Awareness Week (PSAW), which runs March 4-10.

Now a global event, PSAW is an education and awareness campaign for healthcare safety led by NPSF. Each year, healthcare organizations take part in the event by creating awareness in the community and utilizing NPSF educational resources among hospital staff and patients.

The theme for 2012 is "Be Aware for Safe Care,"reflecting the need to involve everyone-from patients to providers-in ensuring the safety of the healthcare process.

"Through this year's campaign, what we're doing is helping to make consumers and patients aware of what patient safety is all about, what it means, why it's important to the healthcare industry and to them," says Diane Pinakiewicz, president of NPSF.

NPSF provides campaign materials to members and makes materials available for purchase to nonmembers.

"We are aligning some of the materials with the goals of Partnership for Patients to make sure what we do is also supportive of the bigger, national picture and the focus Partnership for Patients has on patient engagement," says Pinakiewicz. Partnership for Patients is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' initiative to increase patient safety and engagement.

Engage patients, community

This year's theme focuses on the role the patient and the community as a whole can play in patient safety. Pinakiewicz says the community is a key player in patient safety as everyone will likely be a patient at one time or another. Thus, patients need to know what they can do to be a part of the care team, and providers must play a critical role in patient safety every day with new processes and approaches, she says.

With this focus in mind, Pinakiewicz emphasizes that PSAW is not just for hospital staff, but for patients as well, giving them the opportunity to understand why patient safety is so critical. For example, this is the time to help explain initiatives that involve patient participation, such as signs that tell patients to ask providers whether they've washed their hands, or why they need to keep a list of medications they're taking.

"The point is to help patients become active, contributing members of their care teams and understand the patient safety issues and where to be vigilant and participate in ways that will reduce the opportunity for something to go wrong," says Pinakiewicz.

PSAW has spread globally since its inauguration in 2002, reaching many member nations of the World Health Organization.
Celebrate, educate, recommit
Hospitals can personalize the event to reflect their organization's unique accomplishments, celebrating their recent achievements in patient safety and displaying those achievements to the entire community.

Pinakiewicz says the week is also about celebrating the work of those who strive every day to reduce patient harm. It's about educating others on this effort, which should receive due recognition.

The second component of the week is to recommit organizations to reducing patient harm by strengthening the relationships between patient and provider.

"We like to reset the patient compact that reflects the commitment that providers have to being responsive to the needs of patients, and the commitment patients make as part of the care team," says Pinakiewicz. "Emphasize what it means to be good partners and remind providers what it is patients expect and look for and hope for when they have healthcare experiences, and remind patients of what it is they need to do in order to help the care team take the best care of them and keep them safe."

"It's a time of recommitment and reflection and a time of celebration of the hard work that's done every day trying to improve the safety of the healthcare system," she adds.

With the National Patient Safety Foundation's annual celebration of Patient Safety Awareness Week March 4-10, patient safety professionals in hospitals across the nation are generating ideas for celebrating, educating, and engaging in a fun, meaningful, and creative way.

Kathleen Divers, RN, MAS, CPHQ, associate vice president of quality/outcomes management at Bergen Regional Medical Center (BRMC) in Paramus, NJ, says trial and error has led her to schedule celebratory activities for BRMC's patient safety week, called the Quality and Patient Safety Fair, which takes place each December.

"The first year we did it, we didn't have very many interactive activities and I'm pretty sure the staff just passed through it. I'm not sure they got it," says Divers. "But the last two years, though, we did a lot of interactive activities where they had to participate, they had to answer questions, play certain games that would raise their awareness about patient safety, which raised participation."

BRMC's third annual Quality and Patient Safety Fair saw more than 300 staff members of the 1,100-bed hospital participate, with 98% of staff giving the event an excellent rating in a feedback survey. The majority of staff members also reported in the survey that they learned something new at the fair, according to Divers.

She is quick to note that a fair theme helps grab staff members' attention. 2011's theme was "Hop on Board the Train to Clinical Excellence." The chief quality officer dressed as a train conductor, and the auditorium where the fair was held was transformed into a train depot. The year before, the theme was a beach party.

Of course, the hook that keeps staff at the fair is a free lunch and the chance to win gift baskets. Small perks such as these are within budget and make a difference to staff, says Divers, who adds that the fair cost about $600 in total. Not only do the perks get staff members motivated to take part, but they also show appreciation for nursing, respiratory, radiology, lab, pharmacy, and all other staff who participate.

To ensure your educational goal is met, engage staff with games, says Divers. A favorite at BRMC was "Safety Sam," involving a simulated scenario in which the eponymous patient, a CPR mannequin, was brought into the hospital after a suicide attempt. The mannequin was placed in a makeshift hospital room, and staff had to name at least five things that were wrong with Sam's care.

Other games included "Madame V the Fortune Teller." The Madame sat in a tent, and before she would tell attendees' fortunes, questions about the 2012 National Patient Safety Goals had to be answered.

Staff could also choose to visit "Purple People Eaters," in which staff dressed as purple monsters asked questions regarding the most appropriate personal protective equipment to wear in various situations when exposed to blood and bodily fluids.

Yet another event was "Safety Jeopardy," which was an electronic version of the TV quiz show but with questions that focused on quality and safety.

"I have to say, every time I walked in the room you heard a lot of laughter," says Divers. "I think people really enjoyed themselves."

She notes that the act of organizing the patient safety fair is almost as important as the fair itself, since putting the event together helps to build relationships among those in the quality department.

"We all worked hard on it and we are all a relatively new department. The utilization review, patient safety, risk management, and performance improvement departments had combined three years ago, so it was a good team-building experience that first year and continues to be every year after," says Divers.