Quilt, staff brainstorm contest help promote patient safety

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Patient safety 

Quilt, staff brainstorm contest help promote patient safety 

After reading this article, you will be able to:

  • Justify staff involvement in patient safety–related events
  • Identify the Ask Me 3™ campaign

Next time you’re brainstorming a way to engage staff in a patient safety–related fair or observance, consider creating a quilt. That’s what staff at Boone (IA) County Hospital, a 25-bed critical access hospital, did to promote Patient Safety Awareness Week (PSAW), which took place March 7–14, and was a big hit for staff members and visitors to the hospital.

“It’s nice because we have a pretty close-knit community, and they really like stuff like this,” says Anna Green, who works in quality management and patient satisfaction at the facility.

Planning the event

Green started planning for PSAW in the months leading up to the event. At the hospital’s monthly patient safety committee meeting, Green and her quality department staff asked for volunteers for a PSAW committee to brainstorm ideas that would engage staff, patients, and visitors to the facility. The hospital has participated in PSAW in prior years, as well as facility safety fairs, and wanted to replicate the effort, but with something new and creative, says Green.

The idea for a quilt came from the director of clinical informatics, who was not directly involved with the PSAW committee. However, because she and Green are friends, Green says she persuaded her colleague to join the committee and share her creativity. Green says she tries to encourage many different staff members to be a part of patient safety efforts. 

“She’s creative, and I knew it, so I wanted her to be a part of the team, even though she doesn’t typically attend specific patient safety committees,” says Green. “I think it’s a good way to get everyone involved and sends the message to other staff that we want their participation as well.”

Soliciting ideas

Boone County Hospital decided to utilize the National Patient Safety Foundation’s Ask Me 3™ program in creating the quilt. Ask Me 3 is a campaign to promote patient education by arming patients with three questions they should ask their caregivers. The departments at the facility identified specific questions that they often receive and creatively displayed them on a quilt square. (See p. 5 for a picture of the quilt.) Involving numerous departments within the facility in this project helped spread the message of PSAW hospitalwide.

Green sent out instructions to each department for how to determine the questions that would be displayed on its quilt square, as well as samples and suggestions for designing the square. 

Additionally, Green provided some of the materials necessary for creating the square, simplifying the involvement required at the department level.

Those departments that participated in creating the quilt were also required to answer the questions they selected and use those answers to create a handout that would be made available to patients. (See an example of the ED’s handout on p. 6.)

Green was amazed at the artistic and inspired quilt squares she received. Some participants sewed on 3-D attributes, whereas others imaginatively incorporated the department’s three questions into an overall theme. She displayed the quilt throughout PSAW and is keeping it for future patient safety fairs and events. (To get a better idea of each department’s three questions, see the sidebar on p. 5 for a sampling.) 

Other activities of the week

In addition to creating a patient safety quilt, Green and her staff helped run a patient safety “idea challenge,” encouraging staff members to submit their thoughts for how to improve patient safety around the facility. Green offered multiple ways to enter—via phone, e-mail, or paper. The patient safety committee reviewed all entries and chose its top three for implementation. The winning staff members received a prize.

“With this quilt, although some departments have done this quilt, once we hung it up, their part was done. We wanted to have another activity, so we decided to have this patient safety challenge,” Green says. 

Another fun activity run in conjunction with PSAW was a fall risk room. Run by the education department, the fall risk room was set up with multiple fall hazards, and staff were challenged to see whether they could identify these risks. Of those staff members who listed all the hazards, four won gift certificates via a random drawing.

Ultimately, Green’s goal for the week, and in general at the facility, was to involve staff members in patient safety initiatives who might otherwise not be. Although it can be difficult to connect with and support various types of staff members, such as the night staff, it’s still something Green tries to accomplish.

“We try and make it fun, but it surprised me—for the patient safety challenge, we’re getting some really cool stuff,” says Green. “I’m trying to do things to get people involved that we might not touch on a normal basis, like people who don’t come to committee meetings ... or aren’t on the front line. They have really good ideas too, so trying to get them involved is something we like to try and do.”


Adapted from Briefings on Patient Safety, May 2010, HCPro, Inc.


Examples of questions on the quilt

The following are some of the questions that appeared on Boone (IA) County Hospital’s quilt squares, based on the National Patient Safety Foundation’s Ask Me 3™ program:

  • From the surgical department:

- How can I be assured there won’t be a needle, sponge, or instrument left in my belly?

- How can I be assured I won’t be given a medication that I’m allergic to?

- How do I know the surgical staff is going to perform the correct procedure on me?

  • From cardiac rehab inpatient services:

- What is congestive heart failure?

- What are the signs and symptoms of congestive heart failure?

- How do you treat congestive heart failure?

  • From the dietary department:

- Does my food meet the safety standards?

- Does my food meet the allergy and diet restrictions?

- Does my food meet my immunity system (protein) needs?

  • From the laboratory:

- What hours are you open?

- Is it okay to eat or drink before my lab tests?

- Can I get my lab results?

  • From the radiology department:

- How do I know I’m receiving the lowest dose possible?

- What will this x-ray show?

- Why can’t you tell me the results?


ED patient safety handout

Visits to the ED can be very stressful times for patients and families. Often, people don’t know what to expect or how things will work in a typical emergency situation. The three questions below along with explanations should help clear up misunderstandings and frustrations.

1. How long is my ED visit going to take?

  • The time for an ED visit can vary greatly, from 30 minutes to six hours, depending on the types of tests ordered by the physician, how many other patients are in the ED at the same time, and how the patient responds to treatments. Our staff will try to keep you informed about your expected visit time and any delays. Our goal is to provide evaluation and treatment that is as quick as possible, but we will not compromise anyone’s safety in order to cut short visit times.
  • Life-threatening emergencies require that all of the ED resources be dedicated to the patient in crisis, so less-critical patients’ length of stay in the ED is sometimes much longer than usual.
  • Most lab tests take anywhere from 30 to 75 minutes to complete.
  • Most regular x-rays can be completed and read in less than 30 minutes. More complicated tests such as CT scans and  ultrasounds can take up to 60 minutes to interpret. Some CT scans require extended preparation time of up to two hours before the test can be performed.

2. What are the criteria for a patient to be seen in the ED? 

  • There are no criteria for a patient to be seen in the ED other than the patient feeling that he or she needs to be evaluated by a physician.
  • Patients do not need to call the ED to get permission from the nurse prior to coming to the ED. In fact, this is an unnecessary delay. Our nurses and doctors cannot diagnose or provide treatment alternatives over the telephone, so patients are best served by coming to the ED if they want to be seen.
  • If the patient is having an emergency requiring ambulance transportation, he or she should call 911.
  • The minimum level of service that all ED patients receive is a medical screening examination to determine whether a medical emergency exists, stabilizing treatment within the capability of Boone County Hospital (BCH), and a transfer to an appropriate higher level of care if treatment cannot be performed at BCH. This will be done without regard to a patient’s insurance status or ability to pay for services.

3. Why is the person who arrived after me going in before me? 

  • The ED does not take patients on a first-come, first-serve basis. Patients are taken to treatment rooms based on the severity of their illness. This decision-making process is called “triage” and is designed to ensure that the sickest people get essential treatment as soon as possible.
  • If you ever feel that we’ve forgotten you in the waiting room, please be sure to talk to the registration staff at the front window. They will be glad to let you know of your status. You can rest assured that you will be taken to a treatment room as soon as possible, based on the severity of your complaint and in relation to the severity of illness of other patients in the department.
  • If you are in the waiting room and feel that your symptoms are worsening, please let staff know that you need to be seen by the ED nurse ASAP. This will help the nursing staff evaluate your needs and set priorities accordingly.

Source: Boone (IA) County Hospital, reprinted with permission.