Safe health workers, safe patients

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of healthcare workers focusing on patient safety like never before.

Employees and doctors at Epworth HealthCare have embraced today’s World Patient Safety Day theme ‘Safe health workers, safe patients’.

Dr Lachlan Henderson, Group Chief Executive said Epworth has a proud tradition of focusing on patient safety over the last 100 years and the pandemic has heightened the importance of a safety culture.

“As the pandemic was spreading through Europe earlier this year, it became obvious that keeping our staff safe from COVID-19 was critical to keeping our patients safe,” Dr Henderson said.

“In our pandemic planning, we implemented extra safety precautions such as introducing dedicated roles like Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) spotters in March.”

The role of a PPE spotter is to check and supervise staff during donning (putting on) and doffing (taking off) PPE to ensure everyone is safe.

Epworth’s pandemic planning also considered the potential for a healthcare worker to be exposed to COVID-19. Any potential exposure immediately triggers our 24/7 internal response team. This team’s job is to ensure the healthcare worker is cared for clinically and that contact tracing and identification of potential exposures takes place immediately, helping to keep patients, employees and doctors safe.

Epworth also implemented a policy of providing facemasks for all patients, visitors, employees and doctors across all of our hospitals to keep everyone safe during the pandemic.

Our workplace looks a little different now with signs reminding everyone of the need for physical distancing, including in employee communal tea-rooms and areas where clinical huddles are held.

Adjunct Professor Paula Stephenson, Executive Director Clinical Services and Chief Nursing Officer said that while we could be very confident of our physical distancing, cleaning and infection control measures, it was important to review our practices across all areas.

“Since last December, all of our employees and doctors have been undergoing ‘Speaking Up for Safety training, regardless of whether they are on our frontline, or in a support or corporate role.” Adj. Professor Stephenson said.

“The program addresses behaviours that might undermine our safety and aims to build on a culture where all staff feel safe and supported to speak up for patient safety.”

A staff safety checklist based on the successful NHS program will be distributed to managers to use with their staff, with simple questions designed to encourage employees to reflect at the end of their shift:

  • Take a moment to think about your day.
  • Acknowledge one thing that was difficult during your work day – let it go!
  • Consider three things that went well.
  • Check on your colleagues before you leave – are they ok?
  • Are you ok? Your senior team is here to listen and support you.
  • Be proud of the work you did today.
  • Now switch your attention to home – rest and recharge.

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