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Healthcare Leaders: 3 Steps to a Better Safety Culture
Workplace

Healthcare Leaders: 3 Steps to a Better Safety Culture

by Dan Foy and Lawrence Mallory
Healthcare Leaders: 3 Steps to a Better Safety Culture

Story Highlights

  • Many healthcare workers feel unsafe as they respond to the coronavirus
  • Leaders should improve their safety strategy with three decisive steps

Many healthcare workers are courageously responding to COVID-19. As caregivers risk their own health to save lives, leaders are fighting to protect their safety and minimize the odds that they'll contract the virus.

Yet only 36% of full-time healthcare workers in the U.S. strongly agree that they're confident they will be safe if they follow their organization's health policies regarding COVID-19. So it's not surprising that less than half (38%) of caregivers feel very confident they can continue to successfully meet the requirements of their jobs if the outbreak continues.

Part of the problem might be that many caregivers are in the dark about their hospital's COVID-19 plan. Only 48% of healthcare workers strongly agree that their employer has communicated a clear plan of action in response to COVID-19.

Healthcare leaders need to do more to ensure their workforce is -- and feels -- safe. They need to strengthen their safety cultures like never before.

World-class safety cultures provide clear expectations, effective collaboration mechanisms, rapid information flow and efficient error reporting. In turn, they promote patient, caregiver, business and clinical outcomes.

Healthcare leaders should take these steps to bolster their safety cultures.

1. Broadcast your safety plan regarding COVID-19.

To perform their best, workers need to know their workplace prioritizes safety and has a plan for protecting it. Having explicit safety policies and plans is not enough; healthcare leaders must communicate those strategies through words and actions. The best communications are both informal and formal and use multiple outlets, such as internal newsletters, text messages, hallway conversations and leadership rounding.

Further, leaders should task managers with communicating how teams can apply safety policies in their work. Without effective ongoing conversations between managers and employees, goals and performance metrics are left to chance. Ultimately, engagement, performance and patient outcomes can suffer.

Healthcare leaders need to do more to ensure their workforce is -- and feels -- safe. They need to strengthen their safety cultures like never before.

Leaders must frequently reiterate their safety strategies and share critical updates to maintain internal alignment -- and trust -- through the crisis. For example, leaders can share how they've strengthened error reporting due to the pandemic or provide new resources for information sharing.

2. Keep managers accountable and aligned.

Like all employees, managers have a basic need to know what's expected of them. Because managers are instrumental for team success, leaders must keep them informed and hold them accountable for their role in supporting employees.

Sick leave policies are one example. When asked if their manager encourages sick employees to stay home, about one in four healthcare workers do not strongly agree. Even robust safety measures are little comfort if employees don't trust their leaders and managers to follow through.

Leaders are responsible for reminding managers about relevant policies. Just as important, leaders should hold managers accountable for communicating with their teams regularly and asking employees what they need.

By empowering managers to succeed, leaders support caregivers on the front lines of the pandemic.

3. Use ongoing dialogue and rounding to address safety concerns.

During times of crisis, leaders must show they care. Simply talking to caregivers can demonstrate leaders' authentic support for employees -- plus, employee feedback helps leaders better adjust and optimize their COVID-19 strategies and safety policies.

World-class safety cultures provide clear expectations, effective collaboration mechanisms, rapid information flow and efficient error reporting.

Leaders should prioritize rounding for COVID-19 front-line workers to ask about their concerns and reiterate the hospital's safety strategy. Importantly, leaders should transform feedback into action and follow up with employees to share those actions.

For example, leaders might find that a unit is particularly under-resourced and promptly intervene to strengthen teamwork and help all team members work more effectively. With all employee concerns and needs, leaders should relay updates and reinforce that they're prioritizing issue resolution.

Healthcare workers, including leaders, are moving mountains to defeat COVID-19. To support their people in this high calling, leaders must architect a safety culture that helps employees feel genuinely safe.

Make leadership decisions based on fact, not guesswork. Ask your employees how they feel and what they think.

Dan Foy is a Managing Consultant at Gallup.

Lawrence Mallory is a Consulting Subject Matter Expert at Gallup.

Bailey Nelson contributed to this article.


Gallup https://www.gallup.com/workplace/312521/steps-healthcare-leaders-during-coronavirus.aspx
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