Facilitating Change

Establishing and maintaining a successful safe patient handling program will likely require a culture change throughout the hospital. In Safe Patient Handling and Mobility: Interprofessional National Standards, the American Nurses Association recommends that employers and healthcare workers partner to establish a culture that emphasizes safety as the top priority above competing goals.

According to ANA's standards, a culture of safety includes acknowledgement of the risk, a commitment to provide resources to consistently achieve safe operations, a blame-free environment where workers can report errors or incidents without fear, and an emphasis on collaboration across sectors and settings.

“High reliability” principles that go beyond equipment and procedures help create a prevention-based culture of safety, and in turn benefit patient safety as well. Worker involvement in every step of the process, including policy development, equipment selection and placement, education, and evaluation, will help ensure a successful program and safety for all.

Modeling safe patient handling behaviors is key to facilitating change. Along with overall safety coordinators, many hospitals have dedicated safety champions or “coaches” on each floor or unit to encourage their colleagues to follow safe patient handling policies and procedures. These individuals continually remind and educate their peers about the program and promote a cultural mindset of safety. Nurse managers also can help to support and reinforce the program with staff.

Read more about facilitating a culture of safety in hospitals:

  • Safe patient handling advocates often hear a lot of reasons why hospitals choose not to invest in mechanical lift equipment or other safe handling procedures and policies, or why equipment does not get used after they have made the investment. "Safe Patient Handling: Busting the Myths" provides facts that safety champions can use to promote safe patient handling.
  • The Joint Commission reprinted a 2013 feature from Healthcare Executive, "The Power of Zero: Steps Toward High Reliability Healthcare," about steps hospitals can take toward creating a culture of high reliability healthcare.
  • In 2008, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality published Becoming a High Reliability Organization: Operational Advice for Hospital Leaders, which presents the thoughts, successes, and failures of hospital leaders who have used concepts of high reliability to improve patient care.