Hospital Impact: To make a difference, listen to frontline healthcare workers

In quality improvement-speak, we often ask: What can you do by next Tuesday to make a difference?

Today, I will change this just a bit.

I will ask: Who will you listen to tomorrow to make a difference?

Recently, I was speaking with a patient safety advocate from Sweden who was sharing about her organization and both the flames of goodness within the Swedish healthcare system and the areas for improvement. The discussion was amazing, as was the mutual learning.

But it was one specific thing she said that truly caught my attention more than anything else:

“Tom, there was so much energy and passion for ensuring our patients are safe. In fact, when I began my organization the number of people from throughout the healthcare system willing to donate time and energy was overwhelming. But soon the sad reality set in for them … as it did for me. Almost every one of these energized, smart, caring people quickly realized that if they were to continue to focus on patient safety, they would lose their jobs within the system. Oh Tom, so sad and yet so true. What a loss at so many levels. Why don’t these individuals’ respective leaders listen to understand how this work not only improves patient safety for all but also enhances their staff’s passions and refuels these people to contribute even more so in their everyday roles?”

This past week, I was checking in with an incredible person, a cardiologist who continues to brave her own health challenges as she also seeks to find a place within the healthcare system where she can lead, serve and make a difference. She shared:

“I’m so disheartened and feel I need help imagining how I can go forth.”

During my most recent internet radio monthly healthcare segment, a passionate visiting nurse shared with me:

“I can’t tell you the number of scales that I have purchased over my career for people [who could not afford one on their own] just to help them maintain and monitor their weight--because that is the No. 1 step in managing congestive heart failure.”

She went on to share the impact (including the costs associated with readmissions and treatment protocols) simply because a patient did not have access to a scale and thus did not monitor his or her weight.

She also shared:

“When we have someone in a wheelchair, why are we not giving them a $100 ROHO cushion to prevent the bedsores? Give it to them before we have two stage 2 bedsores, which require that I go out there three times per week.”

She went on to share additional insights into prevention opportunities that improve patient care, improve patient experience, lower costs and prevent readmissions.

And as she did, she also shared her frustration that those in healthcare leadership are not listening to nurses and others on the front lines who have insights that can inform their decision-making and ultimately lead to significant improvements in care.

These are just three examples of smart, caring people seeking to improve safety, to get back into action, to improve care, to reduce costs and to make things better.

And in each case, they are seeking someone within the system to listen to them, to care about them and their mission, to ensure they and their teams are safe and to truly understand.

Who will you listen to tomorrow to make a difference?