Hospital staff test their safety knowledge
Health Sciences North staff had the chance to experience something they might find truly scary on Halloween.
Set up in one of the hospital's patient rooms, the Room of Horrors featured 31 separate health and safety risks.
They included a dummy on a stretcher with the side rails down and the wheels in the unlocked position, strawberry jam on the patient's food tray, despite an allergy to strawberries, intravenous fluids and medications past their expiry date, and a bag of blood with the wrong patient's name on it.
The activity was held in honour of Canadian Patient Safety Week, which runs Oct. 29-Nov. 2.
Debbie Barnard, the hospital's director of quality and patient safety, said the Room of Horrors is designed to remind staff about watching for safety hazards in a fun way. Roughly 100 staff participated in the activity last year.
“I tell staff when you go back to your unit, I want you to walk around your unit and see if you see any of these infractions or opportunities in your environment,” she said.
Dave McNeil, the hospital's chief nursing officer and vice-president of clinical programs, said most staff are actually able to pick up on more issues than are actually on the list.
“They're all pretty astute because they do this on a day-to-day basis,” he said.
Other Patient Safety Week initiatives at Health Sciences North included poster and video contests. Staff were encouraged to create videos and posters describing what they are doing to improve patient safety in their units.
Those in the Health Sciences North cafeteria were also treated to a surprise flash mob song and dance performance by students from Confederation Secondary School. They sang “It's Safety And I Know It” to the tune of “Sexy And I Know It” by LMFAO.
McNeil referred to two large studies which underline the importance of patient safety.
A study released in the United States in 1999 pinpointed 200,000 people who have died from adverse patient events, and another study released in Canada in 2004 found 24,000 people who had been harmed through adverse patient events.
“Why does it happen?” McNeil said. “Health care is complex. There's millions of interactions that occur on an annual basis throughout Canada, and that's why the numbers are so big.”
But Health Sciences North's goal is to avoid causing any harm to its patients, McNeil said.
“When patients come here, they don't expect to be harmed in any way,” he said. “That's why we've set that goal.”
He said the hospital has an incident reporting system. Staff are even encouraged to report situations which could have led to an adverse patient event, or “good catches.” Roughly 2,000 good catches are reported every year.
Barnard said she thinks patient safety has improved at most health-care institutions, including Health Sciences North, over the years.
“We are paying attention,” she said. “We are aligning our resources in that direction, and moving along the agenda. There's more work to do, but we're definitely on the path.”