17 September 2020 marks the second annual World Patient Safety Day. The theme this year is 'Health Worker Safety: A Priority for Patient Safety'.
In the run up to this special event, Patient Safety Learning are publishing a series of interviews with staff from across the health and care system to highlight key issues in staff safety and gain a clearer idea of the kind of change that needs to take place to keep staff, and ultimately patients, safe.
In this interview, Kirsty Wood, Senior Critical Care Outreach Practitioner, shares her insight.
Questions & Answers
How did you come to be where you are now and what is your involvement in patient safety?
My name is Kirsty Wood, and I’m Senior Critical Care Outreach Practitioner. I have a background of eight years working in critical care, where I worked my way up from newly qualified staff nurse to sister.
I discovered my passion for patient safety when I joined the Critical Care Outreach team in 2015. My initial focus was on early recognition, prevention of further deterioration and avoidance of admission to ITU. After years of experience dealing with acutely unwell adults, I developed a taste for teaching and found that supporting staff to improve their skills and knowledge to empower and enable them to manage deteriorating patients was the biggest reward.
My current post allows me to continue having a hands-on approach clinically, alongside teaching nationally recognised courses and leading on quality improvement/patient safety projects.
Why is staff safety important and what does it look like?
In order for healthcare workers to be able to deliver safe and high-quality care, they themselves need to be well, both physically and psychologically. There is a direct link between staff fatigue and disengagement and medical and nursing errors, ultimately putting patient lives at risk.
Staff safety should encompass a holistic approach, looking at optimising staff well-being, psychological support and allowing family-work life balance. Professional needs need to be recognised to promote staff engagement and job satisfaction, such as professional and personal development, adequate breaks and safe nursing/patient ratios.
How does staff safety make a difference to patient safety?
Ultimately, without staff safety there is a risk of negative impacts on patient/relative experience and potential risk to their lives.
Can you provide an example where you've seen this to be the case in your own line of work?
As simple as, healthcare professionals not smiling. Whether this be because they are tired, frustrated, struggling emotionally or physically, the patients and relatives notice and their experience changes; they often feel they cannot approach these individuals with any concerns and they then become just as disengaged as the staff member. In turn, they are less likely to highlight concerns with their condition and breakdown in communication could lead to failure to recognise and rescue.
Do you feel safe in your workplace? If ‘yes’, what is it that your organisation has put in place to make you feel this way?
Yes. We have access to a variety of resources and services for our well-being, including regular mindfulness sessions, We Care Café and counselling. There are speak up guardians around the trust, along with regular access to the directors enabling any staff member to discuss concerns and opportunities to share ideas.
What advice do you have for organisations to keep staff safe?
Open door policies, regular staff forums and staff-led decisions will improve communication and engagement. Allowing staff to express their wants and needs, working collaboratively to improve work life will, in turn, enrich patient/relative experience and maintain high standards of care.
What advice do you have for staff, themselves, to ensure they are safe at work?
Take your own advice. Healthcare workers are notoriously bad at following their own instruction. Ask yourself…what would I say to my patient or a family member if they told me they felt this way? More often than not, you will know what you need to do; it’s just a matter of allowing yourself to. We constantly look after others in our professional lives and home lives that sometimes we forget about ourselves.
What more is needed to keep staff safe?
No tolerance for unsafe staffing levels. Recognition of staff member’s needs. Openness and willingness to listen and change.
How can Patient Safety Learning help?
Patient Safety Learning’s the hub is an essential platform that allows collaboration and communication across the country. The diversity of the experiences and ideas that are shared enables others to improve current practices and keep up-to date. Through networking, we are able to learn from each other, provide invaluable support and energy to strive for patient safety.