Tag Archives: patient safety

Value and Learning Propositions for Safety through Simulation – Don’t Sell Your Efforts Short

shutterstock_561835375aAll too often it is easy to be stuck in a mindset which can create tunnel vision. One of those time frames in the simulation world can come from an overall short-sightedness, into the usefulness, power, wisdom and change that can result from well-run simulation efforts. Many people have heard the adage “with simulation is within the debriefing that all the learning occurs.”  While phrases like this are meant to underscore the importance of the debriefing following a simulation if they are taken too literally they can result in a lack of recognition of total value of the simulation program investments and contributions.

This phenomenon is prevalent when evaluating the impact of simulation programs as part of patient safety efforts in healthcare systems in hospitals. In-situ simulation programs, or mock code evaluation programs are of unquestionable value to those of us who are in leadership in patient safety roles. Undoubtedly learning can occur during the simulation itself as I discussed in a previous blog post. Further, we all recognize the value of learning that can occur during well-run debriefing sessions. Lastly and perhaps most importantly great value can come from the information obtained during the simulation.

Scenario and debriefing sessions involved in in situ and other simulation programs that occur with practicing professional’s as participants have their limitations. First, and most practically is the operational recognition that healthcare professionals can only be kept “off-line” for a certain period of time to accomplish the simulation and debriefing. Secondly, some topics may be more sensitive than others and are not appropriate to be addressed directly with individuals during a debriefing that involves peers, as well as other healthcare colleagues. This point may be considered when evaluating the political and perceptions of your in-situ programs as received by the staff. Lastly, when you execute such a simulation there is only so much that can be absorbed at one point in time before cognitive overload becomes a significantly limiting factor.

Thinking traditionally from a “simulationist” point of view, is easy to think that all of the learning that will be recognized comes from the performance of the simulation combined with debriefing. With structure, planning and a systems-based approach to the simulation efforts, data can be gathered and analyzed to help a given hospital, or health system, understand the capabilities and limitation of their various clinical delivery systems. This can be invaluable learning for the system itself, which can then be incorporated into a plan of change to improve safety or in other cases efficiency in the delivery of care.

The given plan of change may incorporate additional educational efforts, policy, procedure or process changes that will be made in a more informed way than if the data from the simulation was not available. To garner such useful information at a systems-based level it is important that the curriculum integration be developed with consistent measurement strategies, objectives and tools that will allow meaning information to accrue.

A well planned, needs based targeted implementation strategy will create larger value than the simulation efforts occurring in a silo not connected to a larger strategic plan of improvement. If you think about a simulation event it is easy to picture small groups of people learning a great deal from the participation in the scenario or program. Simulation has the unique capability to abstract information to help provide insight into aspects of the patient care that both go smoothly as well as identify opportunities for improvement simultaneous with deployment of useful learning.

Once these opportunities are catalogued and recognized, a transformation of greater scale can take place through careful planning and implementation of further patient safety efforts with defined targets. Partnering with your risk management or patient safety colleagues to work on the integration plan can be valuable for increasing leadership buy-in for supporting your simulation efforts.

So I challenge you! If you are running relations in situ make sure that you keep in mind that your educational efforts during the simulation scenario are part of a bigger picture of increasing the safety and/or efficiency for providing care to patients, thus bringing a higher return on investment for the simulation efforts that you are conducting.

Until next time…… Happy Simulating!

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Evaluating Inpatient Crisis Response

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As the Medical Director of patient safety for a large healthcare system I can say that conducting unannounced “mock codes” (Inpatient Crisis Response Evaluation System is the title of our program) is a critical pillar of safety quality improvement efforts. WISER oversees our program and provides the evaluation and consultation service to many of our 20 hospitals in conjunction with and close collaboration with the local hospital physician and nursing leadership.

The unannounced part allows true system evaluation of such a response. The events are closely choreographed with our simulation team (led by a physician medical director), as well as the local hospital leadership. Our evaluation system has afforded us as a system, the opportunity to unveil many latent system threats as well as identify opportunities for targeted training efforts. With regard to simulation and training it is a TRUE needs analysis in this way.

With regard to acceptance, I believe that it is related to the maturity of the overall organization and the simulation personnel conducting the events. In the words of James Reason on high reliability organizations “They anticipate the worst and equip themselves to deal with it at all levels of the organization. It is hard, even unnatural, for individuals to remain chronically uneasy, so their organizational culture takes on a profound significance. Individuals may forget to be afraid, but the culture of a high reliability organization provides them with both the reminders and the tools to help them remember.” Thus I believe in highly mature safety culture organizations it is incumbent upon both the leadership and the healthcare clinicians to be accepting of “external” evaluations for such critical moments as inpatient crisis events.

I also believe that the naming of the program has significant implications. The title “Mock Code” in my opinion sounds somewhat trivial, extra, perhaps of marginal utility, or at the very least “fake.” If that is the intent, then I believe that is easier to argue that the events should be pre-planned and/or avoid being completely “unexpected”. However if the intent is to seriously evaluate a high reliability organization’s response to an unexpected patient situation, and identify needs, process improvement opportunities and uncover latent threats, I would argue for the unannounced methodology.

Our health system shares a deep commitment to continue on the journey to high reliability and believe our Inpatient Crisis Response Evaluation System is an important component of our success. As WISER is accredited by the SSH in Systems Integration (among other categories) we believe a fully integrated approach is necessary, very safe, feasible and our responsibility to execute and provide feedback to our health system.shutterstock_78054850_a

As anyone who provides actual care for patients there are risks and benefits to ALL decision that are made from therapeutics, to staffing, to salting the parking lot. There are certainly safety items that must be attended to in any of our simulation efforts, particularly those which occur in proximity to actual care. However carefully crafted programs, process and execution will ultimately ensure the benefits outweigh the risks.

I truly believe the undiscovered system latent threats to inpatients are a greater risk than the conducting of the mock code itself.

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The Ultimate Hot Potato – The Cost of Patient Safety Training and Why Hospitals Should Pay the Bill

082515_0520_TheUltimate1.jpgThe costs associated with education and training have historically fallen upon the individual professional in pursuit of such effort. The costs associated with a medical, nursing or other professional license or certificate are staggering. However the professional recognizes that such pathways are an investment in themselves. Once complete the education and requisite skills are “owned” by the individual and afford them the opportunity to have a career in healthcare. Thus the bill is paid by the ultimate beneficiary of the education.

When a hospital employs or partners (in the case of non-employee medical staff) with professionals they carefully screen and ensure the educational history and licenses are in order. The hospital expects the professional to be competent in their field. This is a reasonable expectation as the hospital is engaging in a financial relationship with said individual. In common arrangements the costs of certification, recertification, and licensing fall to the responsibility of the individual professional to achieve. Again, you could argue this to be fair, as the healthcare professional “owns” that side of the equation, at least at the level of individual competence. Continuing education and professional development activities enhance the ability of the professional to remain competent as well as competitive in terms or one marketability as a healthcare provider. Largely these efforts are aimed at knowledge based activities that allow one to remain current in their field.

In recent years schools of health sciences have tried to embed some aspects of teamwork and communications into their curriculums. However, these effort thus far are still aimed at what ones individual competency or knowledge is on how to be part of a team. There still remains a huge unmet need to have practicing professional engage in multidisciplinary education efforts surrounding this important topic. Some of these efforts may naturally include simulation.

Hospitals offer healthcare as a service to patients in exchange for payment. Contained within is a “contract”, or at the very least a commitment, to provide excellent care. Inherent in the delivery of excellent care is error-free care that avoids preventable harm from being experienced by the patient as a result of the healthcare service(s) that they receive from a given hospital.

Additionally there is a “contract” between the hospital and the healthcare professional with which they are associated, to provide excellent care, and logically this includes error-free care. In exchange for the professionals providing this service enables the hospital to derive income. This income is shared with the professionals through two basic mechanisms. The salaries paid to employed professionals such as nurses, physicians, pharmacists for example. The second basic mechanism is the ability of non-employed physicians to derive income to their practice for the services provided under the auspices of the hospital. In this latter case, it can be oversimplified to a description of profit sharing for the purposes of this discussion.

While the knowledge and skills of competent individuals are attained during training programs we know that there are education and training efforts that is necessary for professionals to be proficient at the system level. In other words there is training needed for individuals to be competent to work within the hospital of which they are associated. This may include such training as procuring competence in equipment or policies specific to a hospital, training in systems efforts at patient safety, as well as team training just to name a few examples.

While most healthcare providers accept that their education and training to maintain individual competence is their personal responsibility, they will likely draw the line at footing the bill for those needed efforts that are specific to a particular hospital in their systems efforts. Such training efforts represent those areas that the hospital should be responsible for. They represent the training that is above individual competence and afford system competence to the professional. This allows a system of professionals to engage in the delivery of excellent healthcare and keep patients safe so that the hospital can generate revenue from such service provision. Thus it is necessary infrastructure, much like the electric or water bill for the hospital.

In the over-cited United States Institute of Medicine (IOM) report “To Err is Human” from 1999, simulation is mentioned 19 times. Team training and teamwork is frequently mentioned throughout as well. So then how is it that we still don’t have standardized and/or mandatory implementation of team training efforts, patient safety training, or simulation efforts?

The fundamental answer is that the hospitals have not been encouraged, cajoled, regulated or developed the foresight and understanding that training for patient safety is core infrastructure. It is incumbent upon the hospital to invest in this partnership with care professionals who do their part to maintain the competencies, requirements and licensure at the individual level. This will be the only pathway forward to achieve meaningful result from patient safety training efforts. This argument is also predicated on the notion that the reader recognizes that true patient safety training takes more than watching bad powerpoints once a year to satisfy regulatory and accreditation compliance.

So let’s cool the potato, overcome the obstacles and embed the costs of training for systems excellence into the infrastructure costs of hospital care and truly move the needle on patient safety.

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Patient Centered Debriefing – The Ultimate Goal

I am growing more and more concerned about the pacifism by which I hear people approaching their debriefing efforts as I travel about the world. The phrase “safe learning environment” is being hijacked into some sort of process during which the only thing that matters in the world is the feelings of the learners participating in the simulations. So much so that some are saying you shouldn’t tell students what they didn’t do correctly and that during debriefing you should only focus on that which went well and then have a group hug at the end. This is being claimed under banners of student centric debriefing, “safe learning environments”.

 

Do these same educators harbor the fear and trepidation that students might be sad if they perform poorly on a written test? Do these same educators realize what a disservice they are doing for the students when you step back and look at the big picture?  Maybe the educators themselves have a tough time bucking up and delivering the news, doing the HARD WORK of simulation. Perhaps, this shifting or trending is partly evolving because many of the people involved in the teaching and theorizing about simulation feedback don’t see patients on the frontline of the healthcare battlefield.

 

 

I am certainly not advocating that we don’t need to be mindful of students emotions and psychological well being during simulation education activities, but come on people, healthcare decisions and actions involving patient care need to be near perfect. Every Time.  We need to be certain that when participants leave our simulations they have a clear understanding of what was right and what was wrong not just do a deep dive into their feelings carefully guarded by the emotions police and find happy things to chat about.

 

 

I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but providing healthcare is hard work, stressful and requires excellence. We need to develop/reinforce excellence in the participants of our simulations and help them achieve their goal, which is to get better at what they do. Every healthcare professional in the world has this as a goal at some level. How we reach out to them and help them along this journey needs to be PATIENT CENTRIC because the ultimate goal is to continuously improve healthcare throughout the world.

 

We certainly must develop methods consistent with the levels and abilities of our simulation participants and create environments that are open to participating, learning, exploring and discussion. But we also must provide participants with information on where they are with regards to expected performance on a continuum of the development of competence. We can not hide the truth during a debriefing because the faculty is uncomfortable with delivering critical feedback, or is so concerned that the students emotional fragility will be violated if they receive the feedback. This is a violation of our ultimate relationship with the ultimate beneficiary of healthcare simulation, the patient.

 

 

During debriefings it is incumbent upon us to make sure that students are treated fairly, treat each other fairly and help to discover things needed for improvement through creating reflections on the learning activities. We also need to make sure there is crystal clarity on expected outcomes versus perceptions of performance that are reconciled. We also must guide the debriefing process in a way that is mindful of the psychological safety of the involved. I think this can be done with adequate training, re-training and continuing practice with the art of debriefing. When we achieve this, we have arrived at Patient Centered Debriefing, and that’s a place I think we all want be.

 

 

I do believe most professionals want to know what they did well as well as what they didn’t. They are the fundamental elements of being able to reflect and improve. We need to be able to have the message delivered by either a process of self-discovery, perhaps through facilitated reflection, or at other times, but just directly providing the information. This doesn’t mean it has to be harsh, or without the feelings of the person involved carefully considered, but it does mean it has to happen with a level of deliberateness that is unequivocal. It is the true art of the debriefing to be able to lead this effort and achieve these goals.

 

Finally I’ll close with a quote from my twelve-year-old son about one of his baseball coaches, “Dad, why does coach always tell me I did a good job when I know I messed up?” What is the answer? Not sure, but I hope that the coach doesn’t change careers and become a simulation facilitator for healthcare professionals.

 

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