Leaning into patient safety

April 18, 2024

Leaning into patient safety

By Anne MacLaurin, Senior Program Lead with Healthcare Excellence Canada

Canadian Patient Safety Week (CPSW) comes once a year, each autumn, to help improve patient safety across the country. If you work in healthcare, though, you know lasting change is not something that can be accomplished in just a few days. It requires ongoing effort—not to mention effective communication and teamwork.

Small changes. Big impact. Safer care. That was the theme of CPSW 2023, hosted by Healthcare Excellence Canada (HEC) from October 23–27 – and one that clearly resonated with teams across Canada. The campaign saw nearly 1,800 registrants, almost quadrupling from previous years. We also had more than 4,000 downloads of patient safety resources from our webpage.

While those numbers alone are encouraging, 96 per cent of our CPSW webinar participants said they have begun thinking differently about patient safety—and 94 per cent said they were eager for more information and knowledge-sharing. CPSW 2023 may be over, but the learning and positive action continue.

There were also many successful CPSW initiatives taking place across the country. A common thread? Everyone, from patients and caregivers, to all who care for and support them, has a vital role to play in patient safety. We know that, together, we can act to create safer care and reduce all forms of harm.

I’d like to share two outstanding examples of CPSW 2023 initiatives that continue to have an impact to this day—as well as some advice and tips participants offered on how you and your team can advance patient safety in 2024.

The Great Escape: Ross Memorial Hospital

Ross Memorial Hospital is an acute-care community hospital serving more than 100,000 residents and visitors in Ontario’s Kawartha Lakes.

Steven Lofkrantz is Ross Memorial’s Senior Lead for Quality and Patient Experience, as well as a Registered Practical Nurse and Accreditation Lead. He was eager to provide a hands-on, patient safety case study for the hospital’s staff and co-op students from a health sciences program he oversees in partnership with a local high school.

When Lofkrantz heard about the theme for CPSW 2023, he had an idea: Why not create an ‘escape room?’

With space at Ross Memorial at a premium, Lofkrantz lobbied for a room in the basement to use temporarily. He got input from across the organization on the opportunities and areas where they thought patient care might be improved—and got management support early in the process.

The escape room, a replica of an actual hospital room, opened during lunch hour during CPSW. It contained about 80 different errors or red flags for staff from across the hospital to identify. Among the many hazards: a broken bed; a patient with incorrect patient identification armbands; a lack of masks, PPE and sanitizers; materials that cause bedsores; and expiry dates that had long since passed.

An escape room designed to look like a hospital room, with a dummy lying in a bed, surrounded by items and packaging, many of which red flags for patient safety.

“Possible patient harm is not just a nursing issue,” says Lofkrantz. “It is an everybody issue. We don’t want patient safety to be siloed. If you see it, talk about it —and help fix it.”

The escape room also featured posters and presentations to supplement the learning, including statistics from Canada and around the world. Participants were asked to note as many problems as they could in a limited timeframe. Next, they were invited to discuss their findings.

“It was designed to be fun,” says Lofkrantz. “You had to look really hard for some things and others were right in your face.”

Participants received chocolate, as well as patient safety stickers and pens from HEC. Ross Memorial has also driven ongoing dialogue through its spin-off Good Catch Program, which encourages all staff to feel comfortable raising safety issues and concerns with colleagues.

Lofkrantz embraced the theme of CPSW 2023. “Patient safety is work that never finishes. Small things, over time, can make a big difference,” he says. “The biggest, most important thing you can change is a culture. The more we talk about patient safety and quality improvement, the more it becomes engrained in the organizational culture.”

A Spooktacular Learning Experience: Nova Scotia Health

Nova Scotia Health (NSH) provides healthcare services to residents across the province, including hospitals, health centres, community-based programs and some long-term care.

Nova Scotia Health has been active in CPSW since it first launched in 2005. This year, however, they tried something different: A virtual “Trick or Treatment Room” with a Halloween theme, brimming with ghosts, vampires and monsters.

The room, still available online here, asks visitors to identify 10 possible safety issues. Healthcare employees across Nova Scotia were invited to participate, and those who did were entered into a draw for prizes.

“We wanted to highlight patient safety as being an organizational priority and something that everyone at Nova Scotia Health sees themselves part of,” says Heather Cochrane, Director Northern Zone Quality Improvement and Safety and NSH Lead Patient Safety. “This year’s Canadian Patient Safety Week theme really resonated with people.”

In addition, Nova Scotia Health leveraged online resources from Healthcare Excellence Canada, including our webinars. To kick things off, staff attended an online fireside chat. The next day, they participated in HEC’s webinar on Rethinking Patient Safety. That was followed by an online “team connect” during which participants discussed issues and goals in a live online session.

Eager to extend the learning and knowledge-sharing beyond CPSW, Nova Scotia Health solicited nominations for individuals and teams who have shown an ongoing dedication to improving patient safety.

“These were peer-nominated patient safety champions, and we had quite a few,” says Lisa MacSween, Senior Communications Advisor. “We wanted to keep the patient safety message going throughout the year.”

Winners were posted on the organization’s intranet with featured stories published on Nova Scotia Health’s website and celebrated on social media.

Preliminary planning is now underway for CPSW 2024. The Nova Scotia Health team is considering some hands-on, live initiatives to complement its virtual offerings and to expand reach.

Tips On How You Can Plan CPSW Events

We asked the teams at Ross Memorial Hospital and Nova Scotia Health for advice:

  1. Start planning early. “The more time you have,” says Ross Memorial’s Lofkrantz, “the more effort you put into it, the better it is.” Cochrane and MacSween from Nova Scotia Health emphasize being “reflective and intentional” as you plan your programming.
  2. Stay positive—and make your initiatives fun and engaging for a very wide audience. “People have got to want to participate,” says Lofkrantz. “Whatever you do, it has to resonate with your staff and patients—otherwise it’s not worth doing.” Activities should be interactive—and celebratory.
  3. Get input from all departments. “You do better when working as a team,” says Lofkrantz. “If people have a hand in developing your program, they will embrace it more.” Cochrane and MacSween say you can pull off impactful CPSW activities with a small, dedicated group meeting regularly. While quality and safety can take the lead, multi-disciplinary participation is key.
  4. Make your messaging accessible and clear to a general audience. Avoid jargon and medical terminology that could confuse those with different levels of healthcare literacy, including patients and families.
  5. Cultivate patient safety partnerships and share knowledge as much as possible both internally and externally.
  6. Seek management support early in the process. This can help manage time and resources. CPSW initiatives do not need to be costly or overly time-consuming. Sometimes simple, creative ideas can be the most engaging.
  7. Offer promotional materials and swag, if possible, including materials from Healthcare Excellence Canada.
  8. Use CPSW as a catalyst to create ongoing patient safety dialogue throughout the year.

Healthcare Excellence Canada will unveil our theme for CPSW 2024 this spring. Stay tuned for more information by subscribing to our newsletter.

In the meantime, to help you begin planning and get your creative juices flowing, we invite you to check out the following resources:

You also can order swag here.

With your participation, we can build on successes such as those experienced at Ross Memorial Hospital and Nova Scotia Health and make CPSW 2024 our most creative—and impactful—yet.