In May 2019, the World Health Organization declared Sept. 17 as World Patient Safety Day in recognition of patient safety as a growing global health issue. Increasing public awareness as well as global engagement and solidarity for patient safety is the foundational motivation of establishing this annual event. This year, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented risks and challenges that health care workers are facing, the focus is on workforce safety.
In all businesses, workforce safety is important to achieve the best outcomes. In health care – where the business is taking care of people – ensuring that the care takers are safe (physically and psychologically) is essential for patient safety. In fact, the WHO adopted the slogan “safe health care workers, safe patients,” and is calling on everyone to speak up for health care safety.
One way leaders can promote a culture of speaking up is by instituting stop work policies where all employees are empowered and responsible for intervening when they see others behaving unsafely. In its recently published “Safer Together, A National Action Plan to Advance Patient Safety,” the Institute for Healthcare Improvement identifies 17 recommendations. Workplace safety recommendations include assuming accountability for physical and psychological safety and a healthy work environment that fosters the joy of the health care workforce. A key tenet to that recommendation is that the total organization assumes accountability. From the board to the front lines everyone has a part to play: the leaders, the clinicians and all those supporting the business of caring.
Let’s acknowledge World Patient Safety Day 2020 and the importance of a voice calling out loudly for the safety of patients by ensuring the safety of the workforce.