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How a Safety Culture in Healthcare Reduces HAIs

safety culture in healthcare

Ensuring a safety culture in healthcare organizations is essential to ensuring the safety of patients and staff. It is important for management to place a strong focus on this culture by incorporating all stakeholders to ensure its success. With this commitment to safety, healthcare facilities can reduce the number of safety incidents and create a better work environment. Continue reading to learn how a safety culture can help reduce healthcare acquired infections (HAIs) and how to create one at your organization.

Safety Culture & HAIs: What's the Connection?

A 2023 study done at Columbia University School of Nursing in New York City found that a positive culture of safety and adherence to standard precautions are linked to a lower risk of blood-borne and other infections in healthcare workers, as well as the prevention of HAIs.

The study looked at 5,285 standard precaution observations as well as 452 nurse surveys. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), standard precautions include but are not limited to:

  • Hand hygiene
  • Using personal protective equipment
  • Respiratory hygiene
  • Sharps safety
  • Safe injection practices
  • Sterile instruments
  • Disinfected surfaces

Though standard precautions may seem obvious, they are adhered to less than 50% of the time.

As noted in the Colombia survey, fostering a positive safety culture in healthcare plays a crucial role in reducing healthcare acquired infections. This is not merely a theoretical assertion; its implications play out practically in daily healthcare operations.

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When staff perceive a strong emphasis on safety, they become more proactive in voicing concerns sooner, aiding early detection and treatment of potential infections. Beyond staff engagement, a robust safety culture in healthcare also promotes patient involvement.

A rapport of trust with their providers encourages patients to be candid about their well-being and express any worries, further aiding infection prevention. Research World Health Organization underscores this, stating that patient engagement can mitigate the risk of harm by up to 15%.


Safety Culture in Healthcare Reduces Hospital Acquired Infections  Infographic

 

 

The Importance of Senior Leadership Buy-In

For healthcare organizations to truly embrace a safety culture, transformation must begin at the top; leadership buy-in isn't just advantageous—it's essential. When leaders prioritize and visibly champion safety, the ripple effect throughout the organization is profound.

This commitment isn't just about advocacy; it involves regularly analyzing data on HAIs to glean insights from past challenges. Leveraging data-driven software to deep dive into incidents can illuminate root causes, paving the way for proactive protocols to prevent similar events from happening in the future.

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Healthcare leaders genuinely invested in fostering a safety culture are more likely to allocate sufficient resources, ensuring staff access to essential safety equipment and efficient incident reporting tools. By directing funds towards safety, leadership not only underscores its significance but also fortifies the frontline defenses against HAIs.

Ways to Improve Occupational Health and Safety

Besides encouraging employees to follow standard infection control precautions, there are a variety of other ways to improve health and safety in the workplace. Having an overall workplace safety culture is extremely important, and below are some tips to help improve that culture.

  • Maintain Consistent Communication Around Safety: Hold regular safety huddles to review protocols and foster open dialogues about potential risks or observations made by staff. In these meetings, emphasize the procedures to be followed in the event of safety lapses, ensuring immediate and informed responses. Furthermore, when errors are identified and underlying causes are pinpointed, share these insights with the team. This transparency not only educates but also empowers staff to recognize and prevent similar issues in the future.
  • Train Employees: In-dept training is pivotal to prevent workplace injuries and healthcare acquired infections. While foundational practices are universal, each healthcare facility has its unique procedures; thus, orienting new employees to the organization's specific protocols is crucial. Moreover, ongoing training ensures staff remain informed and current on best practices, ensuring consistent preparedness.
  • Recognize and Reward Employees: Offer incentives to employees who consistently adhere to safety protocols or frequently submit safety reports. This not only bolsters engagement but also aids in decreasing healthcare-acquired infections. Beyond tangible rewards, simple acknowledgements are impactful. Highlighting staff who exemplify best practices and respond adeptly to incidents reinforces that their diligence is noticed and valued.

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  • Encourage Breaks: Focusing on the mental health and well-being of employees is a great way to improve safety culture in healthcare. Given that many providers stand for extended durations, encouraging periodic stretch breaks can help improve employee health. Brief moments of stretching can minimize injury risks and elevate comfort levels during work. The CDC advises breaks at least every two hours during shifts to reduce the likelihood of injuries and mistakes.
  • Foster Open Dialogue: Ensure that employees find it easy to approach management with any concerns. They should experience a sense of security and confidence when sharing their voice, without apprehension of repercussions. Establish clear channels for reporting, whether it's designating a specific contact person or implementing a structured form system. Consider implementing an employee rounding process—a strategy where leadership actively engages with staff to gain deeper insights into their experiences and perspectives within the workplace.
  • Seek Professional Assistance: When establishing a new safety protocol for your organization, consider enlisting the expertise of occupational clinicians or professionals well-versed in healthcare safety culture. These specialists can conduct on-site assessments, collaborate with your team, and tailor recommendations to suit your specific needs. A third-party perspective can often pinpoint vulnerabilities that might be overlooked internally, ensuring a more comprehensive approach to safety.
  • Centralize Information Accessibility: To prevent healthcare-acquired infections, it's essential to provide staff with easy access to protocols and resources. Consolidate all materials—like training documents, incident reports, and feedback surveys—into a single platform. This unified approach underscores a commitment to safety and streamlines information retrieval. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that 86% of bedside errors go unreported. A centralized hub can boost reporting rates, and supportive leadership diminishes concerns of potential backlash.

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