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Safe Together: Dr. Karla Miller highlights Patient Safety Awareness Week at HCA Healthcare

Graphic that says Patient Safety Awareness Week March 14-20

This week, March 14-20, 2021, marks the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s (IHI’s) annual recognition of Patient Safety Awareness Week. Dr. Karla Miller, HCA Healthcare’s chief patient safety officer, shares the vital safety science work patient safety leaders are championing across the organization to live our mission every day.

I am so proud of what HCA Healthcare colleagues accomplish each and every day to reduce harm and provide safe care for our patients. I support IHI’s statement that this week “serves as a dedicated time and platform for growing awareness about patient safety and recognizing the work already being done.”

Each of our facilities are practicing daily safety huddles, a practice gleaned from high-reliability organizations, which provide an opportunity to share learnings and communicate needs.

Group of people sitting in chairs spaced out to follow social distancing protocols.
HCA Healthcare affiliate Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, Colorado uses a mix of in-person and virtual options during safety huddles.

Mary Jensen, the director of patient safety & risk management at affiliate Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, Colorado, values their safety huddles and shares some thoughts about these daily touchpoints.

Huddles provide the opportunity for facility leaders to continuously evolve to meet the needs of their colleagues, patients and community. The forum also creates opportunity to share great catches and close calls with leaders. Close calls are events or situations that, only by chance, did not produce patient harm. Reporting of close calls allows facilities to intervene and correct weaknesses in processes or systems before harm occurs. Patient care improves as a result, with root cause analysis process improvements and nurturing a culture of safety.

“Beginning with good catches or positive feedback allows us to connect to purpose every day,” said Mary. “The focus can then easily pivot to address global needs while continuing to support individual department safety needs.”

“Huddles at Swedish Medical Center demonstrate closed loop communication among our leaders. They promote follow-up and escalate any outstanding barriers to the forefront,” Mary adds.

The daily organizational huddle builds situational awareness and identifies safety critical issues. Using evidence base practice via the STEPS (Safety-Throughput-Environment-People-Service Recovery) approach, our colleagues at Swedish Medical Center proactively optimize patient safety. The newly integrated NASH (NATE for Safety Huddles) tool, built on the NATE platform, further supports improved reliable outcomes through making safety visible to all, allowing for cross departmental support and directs mitigation efforts to where it is most needed.

Group of hospital caregivers wearing scrubs and face masks.
Mary Jensen (pictured bottom right), director of patient safety & risk management, with other safety huddle participants and unit leaders at HCA Healthcare’s Swedish Medical Center.

Another benefit of safety huddles is building trust within care teams. Trust and psychological safety is vital in order for a culture of safety to flourish. When a culture is psychologically safe, people are able to speak up and “stop the line.” Recognizing the value of personal safety and each individual’s intrinsic worth are key in lifting a successful care experience framework and care excellence agenda.

Man wearing suit and tie. Headshot of Ryan Sledge.
Ryan Sledge, vice president of workforce health and safety at HCA Healthcare

A new colleague that I am so excited to welcome to the organization ― and is integral to this work — is Ryan Sledge. Ryan is the new vice president of workforce health and safety for HCA Healthcare. His unique and focused role offers a real opportunity to bring together those successes with the learnings from across the HCA Healthcare organization, coordinating the work of teams, enterprise-wide, serving a variety of audiences.

In his new role within the Clinical Operations Group, Sledge will partner across teams – both clinical and non-clinical including human resources, infection prevention, HCI, and performance improvement – to ensure our caregivers receive great care, allowing them to focus their passion and energy on providing great care.

“COVID has reminded us that physical, mental and emotional well-being are intimately intertwined. I hope to be able to aide our colleagues with the right kind of support at the right time for them.”

– Ryan Sledge, vice president of workforce health and safety at HCA Healthcare

I appreciate all of our teams working together – supported by incredible patient safety leaders enterprise-wide – to deliver the safe, superior care our patients and colleagues deserve. Each one of them is motivated by and dedicated to a “patient first” culture and I am proud to call them colleagues.

Stay tuned, too, for next month’s Patient Experience Week (April 27 through May 1). I look forward to applauding our patient and care experience practitioners at every step of the patient journey in celebration.

Thank you and Happy Patient Safety Awareness Week to you all!

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 186 hospitals and more than 2,000 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our approximately 275,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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