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Lead and Reward a Just Culture and Establish Organizational Behavior Expectations to Successfully Create a Culture of Safety in Your Organization

How do healthcare leaders successfully create a culture of safety in their organizations? They model and reward behaviors of inclusion, honesty and respect and use reliable tools and tactics to uncover root causes, according to the expert panelists* of CHEF’s recent virtual Face-To-Face program, Leading a Culture of Safety: A Blueprint for Success – Lead and Reward a Just Culture and Establish Organizational Behavior Expectations. Panelists shared their broad practical knowledge and rich experiences gained in transforming their institutions into safer places for both patients and their workforce.

Over last 20 years, patient safety has become the top priority for healthcare leaders and executives aiming at achieving zero harm at their institutions. While healthcare organizations have implemented successful and sustainable improvements, healthcare-related errors and/or adverse events continue to happen. According to the panelists, “Just Culture” and “Behavior Expectations” are two critical factors necessary to consider in the journey to improved safety. All stories of success were examples of broad and enthusiastic engagement of senior leaders with visible roles (including CEOs) promoting a culture of safety.

Through establishing strategic plans, management training, and empowering frontline staff, those leaders demonstrated that safety is the core value at their institutions. A compelling vision of zero harm clearly communicated on all levels of the organization is essential to engage workforce, patients, and families. To facilitate learning about the systems and building trust, the executives should become role models. When their behaviors demonstrate inclusion, honesty, and respect, usually employees feel comfortable to report safety-related events. Due to complexity of the care delivery processes, it is beneficial to the organizations when all programs across their institutions are aligned and focused on safety. To be successful in addressing system issues, the panelists emphasized the necessity and value of high reliability tools and tactics, including a root cause analysis. However, to effectively implement correction plans, new processes must be hardwired, and outcomes measured and monitored. Thus, the panelists pointed out that all activities related to safety, quality, and performance improvement must be connected and interrelated. Leaders looking for additional guidance in improving the safety of care should download the ACHE and the National Patient Safety Foundation’s Lucian Leape Institute evidence-based resources in Leading a Culture of Safety: A Blueprint for Success. 

* Susan Nordstrom Lopez, FACHE, President, Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, served as moderator of the expert panel of Dea Hughes, Chief of Quality Safety and Value, Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, Elsie Lindgren, System Vice President of Safety and High Reliability, Advocate Aurora Health, Ololade (Lo) Mitchell, Director of Clinical Excellence, UChicago Medicine, Ingalls Memorial Hospital, Joel Roos, MD, MBA, MHCDS, CPE, Vice President, International Accreditation, Quality Improvement and Patient Safety, Joint Commission International


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