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Patient Safety First Campaign Focuses Staff, Patients on Common Goal

Heather Comak, for HealthLeaders Media, September 17, 2009

Keeping the many new patient safety topics and initiatives fresh in the minds of frontline caregivers can be a challenge. To make sure staff members were thinking about a new aspect of safe patient care each month and educate both them and patients together about patient safety goals, Abington (PA) Memorial Hospital (AMH) started "Patient Safety First."

The initiative is a hospital-wide patient safety campaign that focused on behaviors and actions. Originally launched in 2008, staff members decided to continue and build on Patient Safety First after seeing success in its first year.

"It was a program to help us focus, inform, and partner with our employees and patients to get the patient safety message out," says Robert C. Giannini, NHA, safety/ quality specialist at AMH's Center for Patient Safety & Quality. "It's really letting staff and our patients be on the same page for the month."

In 2009, AMH has created communication strategies for internal staff use as well as some specific for patients. At the end of 2008, staff members planned out a full calendar year of topics for each month in 2009. That helped show staff members that this program is a part of the organization's underlying mission, says Giannini.

"We do change our goals based on our priorities for that year," says Giannini. "People are seeing that this isn't going away and it's part of our culture."

To really hit home the idea of changing behaviors to improve patient safety, Giannini and his staff members designed the campaign to be apparent in the everyday working environment. Depending on the theme of the month, the topic receives attention on screensavers, in the "nursing notes" internal newsletter, in educational pieces that are posted, and via patient safety coaches, who spread the theme to fellow caregivers.

The patient safety coaches meet each month to discuss new hospital initiatives. Patient safety coaches at AMH are frontline caregivers, who are unit based and will share a specific message with their colleagues.

"We do have safety coaches in each area of the hospital, and [the monthly Patient Safety First topic] would be part of the theme of the meeting that month," says Linda Mimm, RN, BC, DL, CPHQ, safety/quality specialist at AMH's Center for Patient Safety & Quality. "It's not just a piece of paper that goes out, it's a clear team effort getting the message out also."

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