According to Paul O’Neill, former US Treasury Secretary and chairman and CEO of Alcoa. “Most health care organizations have done little to support the common contention that ‘people are our most important asset.’” The approach to healthcare staffing isn’t working.
This statement was made during a discussion about employee and patient safety:
Boston, MA, March 4, 2013—The Lucian Leape Institute at the National Patient Safety Foundation today released a report focusing on the health and safety of the health care workforce and calling upon health care organizations to initiate broad organizational changes to reduce physical and psychological harm to health care workers. Through the Eyes of the Workforce: Creating Joy, Meaning, and Safer Health Care contends that patient safety is inextricably linked to health care workers’ safety and well-being because caregivers who suffer disrespect, humiliation, or physical harm are more likely to make errors or fail to follow safety practices.
The report details three vulnerabilities in the system and the costs of inaction:
1. Emotional abuse, bullying, and even physical threats are often accepted as “normal” conditions of the health care workplace.
2. Production and cost pressures in health care have reduced intimate, personal caregiving to a series of demanding tasks performed under severe time constraints, detracting from what should be joyful and meaningful work.
3. More full-time employee workdays are lost in health care each year (due to illness or injury) than in industries such as mining, machinery manufacturing, and construction.
Hospitals and healthcare employees do amazing work. They have a sacred responsibility for the lives and well-being of their patients. Most are well-intentioned and do all in their power to bring all of their resources, technology and expertise to bear in fulfilling this responsibility – except in one area – employing the talent strategies, building a workforce and culture to support that mission. Patient safety is the top priority? Then patient safety, and the behaviors that protect patients, need to be a priority. Worker safety and a positive work culture impact patient safety? Then we need to do everything in our power to create that culture. Healthcare has somehow remained cloistered and isolated, to our detriment, from basic business management principles, for decades. We are catching up in how we measure success and how we manage costs, but many of our talent strategies are still antiquated. The mission requires much more from us.