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Creating Patient Safety by Making Sure It’s Safe to Speak Up

Berkeley Regional Lab team huddle.

Huddling regularly, as this team at the Berkeley Regional Lab in Northern California does, can help foster a culture of safety.

Resources, tools available to help teams build culture of openness

Is it safe to speak up about errors and mistakes at Kaiser Permanente? According to a new index that was created from the 2014 People Pulse results, KP employees don’t always feel that it is.

The good news is that 72 percent of employees feel comfortable voicing their opinions on the job, and 71 percent say it’s easy to speak up about errors and mistakes in the department. The bad news is that while KP ranks as “best in class” for employee engagement along with health care organizations such as Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic and Stanford Hospitals and Clinics, those other health care providers do a better job of creating environments where employees feel it's safe to voice concerns.

Speaking up about safety concerns is critical to keeping our patients and our staff safe—and unit-based teams have an important role to play.

“We know from the experience of high-performing unit-based teams that they create psychological safety for their members in and through routines such as huddles and safety conversations,” says Doug Bonacum, KP’s vice president for quality, safety and resource management. “They make their goals, measures and opportunities visible to everyone in the unit, and the team is comfortable raising questions, asking for help, expressing concerns and running small tests of change that will move their work forward.”

To create a workplace culture where employees feel free to raise concerns, get together as a team and answer these questions:

  • Does the team have a standard practice (safety phrase, stop the line, etc.) for calling attention to a safety issue?
  • Do team leaders regularly invite people to speak up about safety concerns?
  • Do team members support one another when someone speaks up and hold one another accountable when someone doesn’t?
  • Do leaders admit mistakes?

If your team could use help creating a speaking-up culture, consider using one of these KP resources:

Patient Safety University for Frontline Staff

These web-based trainings, available on KP Learn, can be done on your own or with your entire team.

  • Introduction to Patient Safety
  • A Safe and Just Culture
  • Teamwork and Communications
  • Learn From Where You Stand

Speaking Up Training and Discussion Toolkit
This toolkit on the MyHR site is for discussion leaders and trainers who want to deliver short, in-person training and discussion sessions about speaking up for patient safety.

Share/Speak Up - ColorMaking It Safe to Speak Up

Resources to help teams foster open communication about safety:

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