We’re on the road to zero harm

October 09, 2017 | by Mary Lou Mastro

Why is it sometimes hard to speak up when something doesn’t seem quite right?

There isn’t one answer. Maybe we’re worried about insulting someone. Maybe we don’t want to come across as demanding or rude.

But that questioning attitude is exactly what we want from everyone at Edward-Elmhurst Health. In fact, the rule “Speak Up for Safety” is critical to our mission. We call this initiative The Road to Zero Harm.

Anyone who has had to use healthcare services understands that things can go wrong. There have been published reports on the significant number of lives lost due to medical errors. We think it makes more sense to acknowledge medical errors than to pretend they don’t happen.

As a healthcare system we are in the process of training every one of our nearly 8,500 staff members and 2,000 physicians on our Road to Zero Harm initiative. We also use a variety of communication methods, including posters in our staff areas, to remind everyone about our mission.

And we’ve tried to make it simple to speak up by encouraging our employees and visitors to use the phrase, “I have a safety concern.” We’re making sure our physicians and employees know that when someone says that phrase, everyone needs to stop, pay attention to that concern and address it.

For this to work, we need to work together. When a team isn’t cohesive, things aren’t as safe. When you have an environment where someone isn’t being inclusive or collaborative, people will be afraid to speak up.  If you do not believe your work environment is safe for you to speak up, please notify your manager, the Human Resources department, or call the Compliance Hotline.

We’re so proud of our employees who pay attention to detail, communicate clearly, have a questioning attitude, focus on the task, and speak up for safety to prevent medical errors. We’re here to take care of people when they’re most vulnerable. Our primary obligation is to keep them safe and do no harm. Everyone needs to take that obligation seriously.

Patients and visitors should speak up too. More eyes watching out for safety means a safer environment for everyone. If you see something in one of our hospitals that seems off, remember the phrase: “I have a safety concern.”

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