Hospital workplace safety means better patient care

Quality care and healthcare worker safety are inseparable because conditions that physically or emotionally harm caregivers also put patients at higher risk of injury, according to a March whitepaper from the Lucian Leape Institute at the National Patient Safety Foundation.

Healthcare has an injury and illness rate of 5.6 per 100 full-time workers compared with 4.2 for all of the private sector, according to the report.

"Health care workers suffer more injury--and disrespect--than workers of other industries," roundtable expert Julianne Morath, chief quality and safety officer at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said in a statement.

To make matters worse, the demands of production, costs and competing programs undermine intimate provider-patient relationships. The report notes that such a working environment not only prevents caregivers from finding purpose and joy in their jobs but also from guaranteeing better, safer care.

"To the extent that people are unhappy in their work, or feel unappreciated or disrespected, they are less likely to be focusing entirely on patients and on making sure they do everything correctly, following the safe procedures and not cutting corners," Lucian L. Leape, M.D., patient safety researcher and adjunct professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, told American Medical News.

The report also highlights the problem of misbehaving doctors obstructing healthcare worker safety, amednews noted. Although researchers estimate only about 5 percent of physicians engage in disruptive or disrespectful behavior, the issue can significantly affect patient care, FierceHealthcare recently reported.

To keep workers, and therefore patients, feeling safe, the report recommends hospitals create a culture of continuous learning, teamwork and transparency. The findings come on top of recent research pointing to teamwork--within hospitals and among hospitals—as vital to patient safety and improvements in care quality.

To learn more:
- here's the NPSF announcement and whitepaper (.pdf)
- read the amednews article