Published on January 27, 2012

Patient Safety a No. 1 Priority at Genesis

Michael Corruthers, an Environmental Services worker at Genesis, was cleaning the Surgical Intensive Care Unit when he saw a critically ill patient trying to get out of bed, with his legs dangling over the edge.

He immediately notified a nurse and stayed near the patient until the nurse could arrive. By going beyond his normal job duties, he prevented a potential patient fall.

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While admitting a patient for outpatient surgery, charge nurse Melissa Johnston, R.N., discovered the original order didn’t match what the patient said was to be done.

The order was for removing one mass from each forearm. The patient, however, said his procedure was to remove two masses on his right arm and one on his left. Johnston immediately “stopped the line.” She consulted the surgeon, who gave a new order to include the second mass on the right forearm, and she made sure the Operating Room staff was aware of the change.

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In both cases, Corruthers and Johnston used safety behaviors and errorprevention tools they learned in mandatory safety training. The training, which has touched every single one of the 5,000-plus employees and 700 physicians at Genesis, is part of a far-reaching effort to make everyone aware that “Patient Safety is First.”

The two patient safety heroes were commended by Rod Roberts, Director of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, who visited Genesis Medical Center, Davenport last Friday to learn more about the health system’s patient safety journey. He heard about initiatives that range from safety huddles and hand hygiene to preventing central line infections.

“I’m very impressed,” said Roberts, whose department’s mission is to protect the health, safety and welfare of Iowans. “It’s obvious to me that patient safety is more than just an emphasis at Genesis, it’s a high priority. Safety and quality are engrained into the culture of everyone who works for Genesis Health System -- from the clinical professionals on down to the housekeeping and janitorial staffs. Everyone understands that it’s all about the patients, their families and the quality of care delivered.”

A commitment to patient safety

Under the leadership of Genesis President and CEO Doug Cropper, the health system has embarked on a journey to build a culture of patient safety and eliminate serious safety events.

A serious safety event is when a breach in the standard of care causes more than minimal harm to a patient.

Human error will happen, but enough safety nets must be in place so the error never reaches a patient.

Patient safety also has been a major focus of the Genesis Health System Board of Directors.

“We’re monitoring patient safety very closely, and it’s a No. 1 initiative of the board at Genesis,” said Board Chairman Mark Bawden. “It’s exciting to see our progress, but there’s still work to do. Even one serious safety event is too many. We have high expectations of ultimately getting to zero serious safety events over time.”

That renewed focus is saving lives and has earned the health system recognition for quality and patient safety.

“We’ve known from Day One that it takes everyone to make a safe environment. That’s why we included non-clinical staff in the patient safety training and have shown them examples of how they can intervene to ensure safer care for our patients,” said James Lehman, M.D., Vice President of Quality.

“It might be Environmental Services staff watching for spots where people could slip and fall or Food & Nutrition staff noticing that a patient has received food on their tray that will interfere with a test.”

Dr. Lehman added, “Our work continues...but what we’re doing is having an impact. In the last two years, we’ve been recognized by HealthGrades.com for patient safety excellence. We’re getting better at finding patient safety issues that previously no one would have talked about.”

When Rod Roberts asked how Genesis’ patient safety efforts compared to other U.S. hospitals, Cropper responded: “When we were at our worst performance, we were still winning patient safety awards. That’s a sad commentary about the nation’s health care.”

Patient safety can fall under the radar screen, so it needs to be elevated to the same level of importance as quality, Cropper said.

He is proud of the strides and the more open culture at Genesis that has employees talking about safety behaviors and barriers, and leaders and board members rounding on units to discuss patient safety.

In a recent milestone, the health system has gone 11 months without any falls resulting in injuries. When Cropper congratulated a roomful of 60 nurses and asked how this was achieved, they responded that they had worked to hardwire safety essentials training into their units.

“We’re not there yet, but our goal is to get to zero serious safety events,” Cropper concluded.

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