WSHA members share lessons learned from projects to build empathy & enhance safety 

April 7, 2022

Creating systemic change can feel overwhelming while addressing all the responsibilities currently facing hospital leadership and staff. Opportunities for shared learning and resource distribution can be key for tackling issues experienced by multiple organizations, which is why WSHA’s Safety & Quality team prioritizes convening community, professional and state partners to advance health care improvements across the state. As part of the upcoming webinar, Building Empathy and Enhancing Safety: Sharing Community Innovations and Lessons Learned, representatives from PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center and Western State Hospital have agreed to share their experiences implementing creative strategies to increase staff empathy, reduce workplace violence and improve the experiences of both staff and patients, as well as what lasting changes have been observed as a result.

PeaceHealth Program Director for Behavioral Health Mullane Harrington, MPH, BSN, RN-BC, will discuss her experience developing the Advanced Care of Patients with Cognitive Impairment training program to decrease assault incidents and improve care of hospitalized patients with cognitive impairment, after recognizing that verbal de-escalation techniques weren’t meeting the unique needs of that patient group. In an article for American Nurse Journal, Mullane Harrington shared that, “The change in experience for patients and caregivers is palpable on the units that have embraced the program. Care conferences are patient-centered, collaborative conversations, and staff are empowered to be creative to meet individual patients’ needs…Caregivers on these units report lower rates of moral distress, higher rates of autonomy and efficacy in mitigating unwanted behaviors, and increased satisfaction in their roles.”

DSHS Creative Director Sara McCaslin will speak to the development of Western State Hospitals’ virtual reality training program, based on research that VR can increase empathy and positively impact behavioral change. DSHS shared online that, “At Western State Hospital’s new employee orientation, staff are equipped with high-resolution virtual reality headsets that transports them into the life of one of their patients living with schizophrenia…We believe that every staff member in every profession, from food service to psychiatry, can create empathetic, therapeutic relationships with patients that support their recovery…The virtual reality training, experienced in 5-episodes over two weeks of orientation, gives all incoming hospital staff a person-centered perspective of what real patients may be feeling or experiencing.”

Health care leaders and professionals interested in learning more are invited to join us from 10:00–11:30 a.m., Friday, May 13. Register for the webinar online here.



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