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Healthcare Leadership Culture Moving Forward: What I (probably) didn’t do during my summer vacation

As a frequent traveler, I tend to read a fair amount in transit (my preferred operating system for reading is the traditional “hard copy”, aka “books” most often from the coffers of the public library), and in doing so, I try to mix in fiction and non-fiction titles. Also, as a function of traveling, I hear about a lot of stuff on the radio (usually the local NPR station—there’s almost one of those everywhere I go), which is not quite as mesmerizing as chasing videos on YouTube, but I’ve found that there’s a whole world of stuff out there, some of which I only learn about because I’m in the right place at the right time. To that end, I have a few suggestions to share with you that (hopefully) will remove some of the happenstance of discovering something you might not otherwise have encountered. So here I present to you, if you will, a fall reading list.

To ease into things, first up is an article from the September 2017 issue of Occupational Health & Safety entitled “The Right Amount of Leadership Done Easy” by Robert Pater. The opening premise asks the question of how many folks have adopted a strategy because it was easy, even though it was ineffective. I liken this to the “all purpose” response to deficiencies in the environment that focuses on more education of staff, when the response should really by aimed towards why the current education process is not as effective as it needs to be, based on results. My philosophy on this is that (unless you have a woefully inadequate education process) staff have received as much education as they need to. You may need to tweak subject matter over time as risks and conditions change. At any rate, I found the article to raise some interesting / thought-provoking concerns and I think definitely worth checking out.

I just finished reading “Shooting Ghosts: A U.S. Marine, a Combat Photographer, and Their Journey Back from War” by Thomas J Brennan USMC (Ret) and Finbarr O’Reilly. I’ve heard both of the authors interviewed recently (yes, on NPR) and found their account of recent events in various war/strife zones compelling enough to take on the book. Now, you may well ask, what does this have to do with healthcare? And I can tell you there is a lot to do with healthcare—from Mr. Brennan’s travails with the management of behavioral health patients (Mr. Brennan suffered a traumatic brain injury during a deployment in Afghanistan and has been dealing with the consequences of that event) in the VA and civilian systems to some insight to how healthcare can more effectively manage care and treatment of folks by learning more about the “patient experience” (definitely a buzzword in healthcare). At any rate, Mr. Brennan and Mr. O’Reilly’s stories are harrowing, both from an experiential standpoint, but also on (and this is my “take”) the uncertainty of the treatment process—even when practitioners act with certainty.

Next up, we have the Managing Millenials for Dummies Cheat Sheet; a little while back, we covered some the more operational aspects of the impact of millennials in our workplaces (and believe me, they’re not going away), from their view of the world to the more tribal aspects of their attire and personal presentation. I think those of us older (I’m more than half way to my next colonoscopy, so I can no longer consider myself among the young ‘uns) folks can say with some degree of accuracy that things have changed a bit over the last 10-15 minutes (OK, maybe even years, but sometimes it’s overwhelming to look that far back into the past) and I think you’ll find the Cheat Sheet both amusing and perhaps somewhat illuminating. It would be nice if all these generational “buckets” were more easy to profile, but it might beg some questions with/for folks you have working for you. Just sayin…

These last two titles I have not yet read (they’re in my pile), but heard mention of them on the radio (unfortunately, I cannot recall exactly which program might have been the one that planted the seeds of interest). The first, “Games People Play: The Basic Handbook of Transactional Analysis” by Dr. Eric Berne (originally published in 1964—thankfully I was born at that point) rang some bells with me, particularly an example of how certain individuals collect slights against them to be used in the future when they have slighted someone else. The example that sprang to mind was a department director to whom I had to speak about a recalcitrant employee (I think it was a parking issue), with the director responding that “well, a couple of months ago, we found a member of your staff asleep in an exam room,” with the intent that my sleeping staff person was far worse than whatever parking issue was at hand. Of course, I did ask as to why I hadn’t been notified at the time, but the response was somewhat vague and not particularly helpful. I guess it’s kind of like saving things for a “rainy day,” but I am a firm believer in taking care of things now if there is an issue. At any rate, I think it’s kind of interesting to see the various scenarios laid out in a scholarly fashion. I think you’ll find more than a little of the information to represent familiar interactions with folks.

The last title for our little book club is of a little more recent vintage; “Mistakes Were Made (but not by me)” would be interesting if only for the title alone, but the subtitle “Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts” is probably a little more timely than at any other time in recent history. That said, as we in healthcare move ever closer to the vision of just culture (and all the accompanying acts of finger-pointing along the way), I think this is worth a read.

If any of you folks out there check any of these out, please feel free to provide feedback as to whether or not I should stay away from book recommendations.

Stay Calm and Read A Good Book!

Thoughts and prayers for Houston; plus, thoughts on required ‘policies’

First off, thoughts and prayers going out to the embattled folks in Texas; I do a fair amount of work in Texas, including the Houston area, and while I have absolute confidence in folks’ ability to respond to and recover from catastrophic events, I also know that this is going to be a very tough next little while for that part of the world. Hurricane Harvey will likely fade from the headlines, but the impact will linger past the news cycle, so don’t forget about these folks in the weeks to come. Thanks!

As I was casting about for a subject for this week’s missive, I happened upon a news item in Health Facilities Management This Week (HFMTW) that outlines some of the pending changes to the ambulatory care / office-based surgery medication management standards and the potential further impact of those changes on some of the EC performance elements in those environments. The changes are pretty much focused on emergency power as a function of being able to provide medication dispensing and refrigeration during emergencies.

Now, I have absolutely no issue with making provisions for the safe physical management of medications during power outages, etc.—it is a critical part of the delivery of safe and appropriate care to patients in any setting, and the more we can do to prepare for any outages, etc., the greater the likelihood of continuity of services if something does happen. What really caught my eye in the TJC blog entry cited in HFMTW (you can find the blog here) is something about half-way down the page titled “Emergency Back-Up Policies.”

At the outset of this discussion, I will tell you that, in most instances, I am no big fan of “policies.” In my mind, mostly what a policy represents is an opportunity to get into trouble for not following said policy. So, the question I wrestle with is whether we need to be mandated to have specific policies in order to appropriately manage our facilities, including preparing to respond to emergencies. For example, I am not entirely certain that a policy is going to make the difference in how well hospitals in the Houston area are responding to Hurricane Harvey (at the time of this writing, there are hospitals facing evacuation), though I would be happy to hear otherwise. I just have a hard time believing that having a policy is the answer to life’s problems; I am absolutely fine with requiring hospitals and other healthcare organizations to have a process in place to ensure appropriate management of medications during power outages, etc.—and I’m reasonably confident that those processes already exist in most, if not all, applicable environments.

I don’t know, maybe some folks do need to be told what to do, but I can’t help but think that those folks are fairly limited in number. And the blog even indicates that “there is no specific direction on the content of the policy”, but publishing this blog is going to force the issue during survey. I don’t know, when you look at the Conditions of Participation, etc., there are really very few policies that are required. It seems a bit odd to think that introducing new requirements for policy will somehow address some heretofore unresolved issue (or something). This one just doesn’t feel “right” to me…

You are so beautiful, to me…

In the interest of a little summertime reading, I wanted to diverge a bit from the usual rant-a-minute coverage (rest assured, the ranting will continue next week—too much going on in the world) and cover a couple of “lighter” topics (though one does have to do with my favoritest topic—risk assessments).

First up, we have Soliant Healthcare’s list of the 20 most beautiful hospitals in the U.S. (as a music lover, I find that I am an absolute sucker for lists—go figure!); while I have not had the opportunity to do any work at the listed facilities (and have done some work at places I think measure up pretty well from a design perspective, etc.), I can say that the buildings represented on the list are pretty easy on the eye. I don’t know if anyone out there in the Mac’s Safety Space blogosphere works at any of the listed facilities, but congratulations to you if you do or did!

The other item for this week focuses on the pediatric environment; from my experiences, a lot of community hospitals have really scaled back their pediatric care facilities, mostly because demand is not quite what it used to be. Where there might once have been dedicated pediatric units, now there are a handful of rooms used for pediatric patients when they need in-hospital care, but not much in the way of dedicated spaces.

If you happen to be in a position in which your dedicated pedi spaces are not quite as dedicated as they once were, you might find it useful to perform a little risk assessment based on a toolkit provided by the University of California, San Francisco, and endorsed by a couple of professional groups. While the focus is more towards the home environment, I think it’s helpful to simply ask the questions and be able to rule out the concerns outlined in the toolkit. Any time you have to “run” with an environment that has to function for different patients, risk factors, etc., it never hurts to be able to pull a risk assessment out of your back pocket when a surveyor starts jumping ugly because they don’t agree with what they’re seeing or how you’re managing something.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children used to provide some risk assessment guidance for healthcare professionals, but in looking at their website, it appears to me that they are confining guidance to law enforcement, media, and families. (Some of the stuff for families is interesting and worth sharing in general.) Since they’re an at-risk patient population, you never know when your efforts to provide an appropriate environment for infants, children, and teens will come under survey scrutiny—and it never hurts to periodically review your efforts to ensure that your plan is current.

Reefing a sail at the edge of the world…

What to do, what to do, what to do…

A couple of CMS-related items for your consideration this week, both of which appear to be rather user-friendly toward accredited organizations. (Why do I have this nagging feeling that this is going to result in some sort of ugly backlash for hospitals?)

Back in May, we discussed the plans CMS had for requiring accreditation organizations (AOs) to make survey results public, and it appears that, upon what I can only imagine was intense review and consideration, the CMS-ers have elected to pull back from that strategy. The decision, according to news sources, is based on the sum and substance of a portion of Section 1865 of the Social Security Act, which states:

(b) The Secretary may not disclose any accreditation survey (other than a survey with respect to a home health agency) made and released to the Secretary by the American Osteopathic Association or any other national accreditation body, of an entity accredited by such body, except that the Secretary may disclose such a survey and information related to such a survey to the extent such survey and information relate to an enforcement action taken by the Secretary.

So, that pretty much brings that whole thing to a screeching halt—nice work of whoever tracked that one down. Every once in a while, law and statute work in favor of the little folk. So, we Lilliputians salute whomever tracked that one down—woohoo!

In other CMS news, the Feds issued a clarification relative to the annual inspection of smoke barrier doors (turns out the LSC does not specifically require this for smoke doors in healthcare occupancies) as well as delaying the drop-dead date for initial compliance with the requirements relating to the annual inspection of fire doors. January 1, 2018 is the new date. If you haven’t gotten around to completing the fire door inspection, I would heartily recommend you do so as soon as you can—more on that in a moment. So, good news on two fed fronts—it’s almost like Christmas in August! But I do have a couple of caveats…

I am aware of 2017 surveys since July in which findings were issued because the inspection process had not been completed, and, based on past knowledge, etc., it is unlikely that those findings would be “removable” based on the extended initial compliance date. (CMS strongly indicates that once a survey finding is issued in a report, the finding should stay, even if there was compliance at the time of survey.) So hopefully this will not cause too much heartburn for folks.

The other piece of this is performance element #2 under the first standard in the Life Safety chapter. (This performance element is not based on anything specifically required by the LSC or the Conditions of Participation—yet another instance of our Chicagoan friends increasing the degree of difficulty for ensuring compliance without having a whole mess of statutory support, but I digress.) The requirement therein is for organizations to perform a building assessment to determine compliance with the Life Safety chapter—and this is very, very important—in time frames defined by the hospital. I will freely admit that this one didn’t really jump out at me until recently, and my best advice is to get going with defining the time frame for doing those building assessments; it kind of “smells” like a combination of a Building Maintenance Program (BMP) and Focused Standards Assessment (FSA), so this might not be that big a deal, though I think I would encourage you to make very sure that you clearly indicate the completion of this process, even if you are using the FSA process as the framework for doing so. In fact, that might be one way to go about it—the building assessment to determine compliance with the Life Safety chapter will be completed as a function of the annual FSA process. I can’t imagine that TJC would “buy” anything less than a triennial frequency, but the performance element does not specify, so maybe, just maybe…

Is this the survey we really want?

Moving on to the type of pain that can only be inflicted at the federal level, a couple of things that might require an increase in your intake of acid-reducing supplements…

As it appears that CMS doesn’t love that dirty water (and yes, my friends, that is a shameless local plug, but it is also a pretty awesome tune), now their attentions are turning to the management of aerosolizing and other such water systems as a function of Legionella prevention. Now, this is certainly not a new issue with which to wrestle, which likely means that the aim of this whole thing, as indicated in the above notification—“Facilities must develop and adhere to policies and procedures that inhibit microbial growth in building water systems that reduce the risk of growth and spread of Legionella and other opportunistic pathogens in water”—is something with which we are abundantly familiar. But I will admit to having been curious about the implied prevalence in healthcare facilities as that’s the type of stuff that typically is pretty newsworthy, so I did a quick web search of “Legionella outbreaks in US hospital.” I was able to piece together some information indicating that hospitals are not doing a perfect job on this front, but the numbers are really kind of small in terms of cases that can be verifiably traced back to hospitals. When you think about it, the waters could be a bit muddy as Legionella patients that are very sick are probably going to show up at your front door and there may be a delay in diagnosis as it may not be definitively evident that that’s what you’re dealing with. At any rate, sounds like a zero-tolerance stance is going to be, but the Survey & Certification letter does spell out the instructions for surveyors:

Surveyors will review policies, procedures, and reports documenting water management implementation results to verify that facilities:

 

  • Conduct a facility risk assessment to identify where Legionella and other opportunistic waterborne pathogens (e.g., Pseudomonas, Acinetobacter, Burkholderia, Stenotrophomonas, nontuberculous mycobacteria, and fungi) could grow and spread in the facility water system.
  • Implement a water management program that considers the ASHRAE industry standard and the CDC toolkit, and includes control measures such as physical controls, temperature management, disinfectant level control, visual inspections, and environmental testing for pathogens.
  • Specify testing protocols and acceptable ranges for control measures, and document the results of testing and corrective actions taken when control limits are not maintained.

I have little doubt that you folks already have most, if not all, of this stuff in place, but it might not be a bad idea to go back and review what you do have to make sure that everything is in order. And if you are interested in some of the additional information (including some numbers) available, the following links should be useful:

Moving on to the world of emergency management, during the recent webinar hosted by CMS to cover the Emergency Preparedness final rule, one of the critical (at that time, more or less unanswered) questions revolved around whether we could expect some Interpretive Guidelines (basically, instructions for surveyors in how to make their assessments) for the EP Final Rule. And to what to my wondering eyes should appear, but those very same Interpretive Guidelines.  I will feely admit that the setup of the document is rather confusing as there are a lot of different types of providers for which the Final Rule applies and not all the requirements apply to all of the providers, etc., so it is a bit of a jumble, to say the least. That said, while I don’t think that I am sufficiently well-versed with the specific EM requirements of the various and sundry accreditation organizations (HFAP, DNV, CIHQ, etc.), I can say that those of you using TJC for deemed status purposes should be in pretty good shape as it does appear that one of the early iterations of the TJC EM standards was used in devising the Final Rule, so the concepts are pretty familiar.  A couple of things to keep in mind in terms of how the CMS “take” might skew a little differently are these:

 

  • You want to make sure you have a fairly detailed Continuity of Operations Plan (CoOP); this was a hot button topic back in the immediately post-9/11 days, but it’s kind of languished a bit in the hierarchy of emergency response. While the various and sundry performance elements in the TJC EM chapter pretty much add up to the CoOP, as a federal agency, it is likely that CMS will be looking for something closer to the FEMA model (information about which you can find here), so if you have a CoOP and haven’t dusted it off in a while, it would probably be useful to give it the once over before things start heating up in November…
  • As a function of the CoOP, you also want to pay close attention to the delegation of authority during an emergency, primarily, but not exclusively the plan of succession during an emergency (I found the following information useful and a little irreverent—a mix of which I am quite fond). It does no good at all for an organization to be leaderless in an emergency—a succession plan will help keep the party going.
  • Finally, another (formerly) hot button is the alternate care site (ACS), which also appears to be a focus of the final rule; the efficacy of this as a strategy has been subject to some debate over the years, but I think this one’s going to be a source of interest as they start to roll out the Interpretive Guidelines. At least at the moment, I think the key component of this whole thing is to have a really clear understanding (might be worth setting up a checklist, if you have not already) of what you need to have in place to make appropriate use if whatever space you might be choosing. I suspect that making sure that you have a solid evaluation of any possible ACS in the mix: remember, you’re going to be taking care of “their” (CMS’) patients, so you’d better make sure that you are doing so in an appropriate environment.

And then came the last days of May…

There’s been a ton of activity the past few weeks on both the Joint Commission and CMS sides of the equation (and if you are starting to feel like the ref in a heavyweight prize fight who keeps getting in the line of fire, yup, that’d be you!) with lots of information coming fast and furious. Some of it helpful (well, as helpful as things are likely to be), some perhaps less so than would be desirable (we can have all the expectations we want as to how we’d ask for things to be “shared,” but I’m not thinking that the “sharers” are contemplating the end users with much of this stuff). This week we’ll joust on TJC stuff (the June issue of Perspectives and an article published towards the end of May) and turn our attentions (just in time for the solstice—yippee!) to the CMS stuff (emergency preparedness and legionella, a match made in DC) next week.

Turning first to Perspectives, this month’s Clarifications & Expectations column deals with means of egress—still one of the more frequently cited standards, though it’s not hogging all the limelight like back in the early days of compliance. There are some anticipated changes to reflect the intricacies of the 2012 Life Safety Code® (LSC), including some renumbering of performance elements, but, for the most part, the basic tenets are still in place. People have to have a reliable means of exiting the (really, any) building in an emergency and part of that reliability revolves around managing the environment. So, we have the time-honored concept of cluttah (that’s the New English version), which has gained some flexibility over time to include crash carts, wheeled equipment, including chemotherapy carts and isolation carts that are being used for current patients, transport equipment, including wheelchairs and stretchers/gurneys (whichever is the term you know and love), and patient lift equipment. There is also an exception for fixed (securely attached to the wall or floor) furnishings in corridors as long as here is full smoke detector coverage or the furniture is in direct supervision of staff.

Also, we’ll be seeing some additional granularity when it comes to exiting in general: each floor of a building having two remote exits; every corridor providing access to at least two approved exits without passing through any intervening rooms or spaces other than corridors or lobbies, etc. Nothing particularly earth-shattering on that count. We’ll also be dealing with some additional guidance relative to suites, particularly separations of the suites from other areas and subdividing the areas within the suite—jolly good fun!

Finally, Clarifications & Expectations covers the pesky subject of illumination, particularly as a function of reliability and visibility, so head on over to the June Perspectives for some proper illuminative ruminations.

A couple of weeks back (May 24, to be exact), TJC unveiled some clarifications. I think they’re of moderate interest as a group, with one being particularly useful, one being somewhat curious and the other two falling somewhere in the middle:

ED occupancy classifications: This has been out in the world for a bit and, presumably, any angst relating to how one might classify one’s ED has dissipated, unless, of course, one had the temerity to classify the ED as a business occupancy—the residual pain from that will probably linger for a bit. Also (and I freely confess that I’m not at all sure about this one), is there a benefit of maintaining a suite designation when the ED is an ambulatory healthcare occupancy? As suites do not feature in the Ambulatory Occupancy chapters of the LSC, is it even possible to do so? Hmmmm…

Annual inspection of fire and smoke doors: No surprise here, with the possible exception of not requiring corridor doors and office doors (no combustibles) to be included. Not sure how that will fly with the CMSers…

Rated fire doors in lesser or non-rated barriers: I know this occurs with a fair degree of frequency, but the amount of attention this is receiving makes me wonder if there is a “gotcha” lurking somewhere in the language of the, particularly the general concept of “existing fire protection features obvious to the public.” I’m not really sure how far that can go and, given the general level of obliviousness (obliviosity?) of the general public, this one just makes me shake my head…

Fire drill times: I think this one has some value because the “spread” of fire drill times has resulted in a fair number of findings, though the clarification language doesn’t necessarily get you all the way there (I think I would have provided an example just to be on the safe side). What the clarification says is that a fire drill conducted no closer than one hour apart would be acceptable…there should not be a pattern of drills being conducted one hour apart. Where this crops up during survey is, for example, say all your third shift drills in 2016 were conducted in the range of 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. (Q1 – 0520; Q2 – 0559; Q3 – 0530; Q4 – 0540), that would be a finding, based on the need for the drills to be conducted under varying circumstances. Now, I think that anyone who’s worked in healthcare and been responsible for scheduling fire drills would tell you (at least I certainly would) that nobody remembers from quarter to quarter what time the last fire drill was conducted (and if they think about it at all, they’re quite sure that you “just” did a fire drill, like last week and don’t you understand how disruptive this is, etc.) If you can’t tell, third shift fire drills were never my favorite thing to do, though it beats being responsible for snow removal…

So that’s the Joint Commission side of the equation (if you can truly call it an equation). Next time: CMS!

Welcome to a new kind of tension…

In the “old” days, The Joint Commission’s FAQ page would indicate the date on which the individual FAQs had been updated, but now that feature seems to be missing from the site (it may be that deluge of changes to the FAQs (past, present, and, presumably, future) makes that a more challenging task than previously (I will freely admit that there wasn’t a ton of activity with the FAQs until recently). That said, there does appear to be some indication when there is new material. For example, when you click on the link (or clink on the lick), a little short of halfway down the page you will see that there’s something new relative to the storage of needles and syringes (they have it listed under the “Medical Equipment” function—more on that in a moment), so I think that’s OK.

But in last week’s (dated May 31, 2017) Joint Commission e-Alert, they indicate that there is a just posted FAQ item relating to ligature risks, but the FAQ does not appear to be highlighted in the same manner as the needle and syringe storage FAQ (at least as of June 1, when I am penning this item). Now I don’t disagree that the appropriate storage (recognizing that appropriate is in the eye of the beholder) of needles and syringes is an important topic of consideration, I’m thinking that anything that TJC issues relative to the appropriate management of ligature risks (and yes, it appears that I am far from done covering this particular topic) is of pretty close to utmost importance, particularly for those of you likely to experience a TJC survey in the next little while. I would encourage you to take a few moments to take a peek at the details here.

So, parsing these updates a bit: I don’t know that I’ve ever considered needles and syringes “medical equipment,” but I suppose they are really not medications, so I guess medical equipment is the appropriate descriptor—it will be interesting to see where issues related to the storage of needles and syringes are cited. As usual (at least on the TJC front) it all revolves around the (wait for it…) risk assessment. It’s kind of interesting in that this particular FAQ deals somewhat less specifically with the topic at hand (storage of needles and syringes) and more about the general concepts of the risk assessment process, including mention of the model risk assessment that can be found in the introductory section of the Leadership chapter (Leadership, to my mind, is a very good place to highlight the risk assessment process). So no particularly new or brilliant illumination here, but perhaps an indicator of future survey focus.

As to the ligature risks, I think it is reasonable to believe that there will be very few instances in which every single possible ligature risk will be removed from the care environment, which means that everyone is going to have to come up with some sort of mitigation strategy to manage those risks that have not been removed. With the FAQ, TJC has provided some guidance relative to what would minimally be expected of that mitigation strategy; while I dare not indicate verbatim (you will have to do your own clicking on this one—sorry!), you might imagine that there would need to be: communication of current risks; process for assessing patient risk; implementation of appropriate interventions; ongoing assessments of at-risk behavior; training of staff relative to levels of risk and appropriate interventions; inclusion of reduction strategies in the QAPI program; and inclusion of equipment-related risks in patient assessments, with subsequent implementation of interventions.

I don’t see any of this as particularly unusual/foreign/daunting, though (as usual) the staff education piece is probably the most complicated aspect of the equation as that is the most variable output. I am not convinced that we are doing poorly in this realm, but I guess this one really has to be a zero-harm philosophy. No arguments from me, but perhaps some important work to do.

Domo arigato (for nothing), Mr. Roboto!

In the never-ending pursuit of the effective management of risks associated with healthcare-acquired infections (HAI) comes a new study that begs the question: How clean is your robot? Back in October of last year (don’t know how I missed this one in the news feed…), the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) released the results of a study indicating that the (at least at the moment) complete sanitation of robotic instruments is virtually impossible when compared to “ordinary” instruments. I don’t know that I had given the subject a great deal of consideration, but, at least on the face of it, I can see where there are probably whole lot more nooks and crannies, etc., that could potentially become contaminated during a procedure. The article speaks of greater protein residue and lower cleaning efficacy (a reported 97.6% efficacy rate for the ‘bots, as opposed to the 99.1% for ordinary instruments). It would seem that researchers suggest that it might be necessary to establish new cleaning standards that use repeated measurements of residual protein instead of just taking one measurement after cleaning. The article doesn’t talk about what cleaning methods were observed, so I’m presuming that the typical methodologies were employed, though I’m also thinking that some of the larger portions of the bots end up staying in the procedure rooms, and I’m thinking that when the stuff starts flying, that’s a tough thing to clean. Maybe there’s an application for the use of UV radiation in these types of situations. At any rate, I guess we can file this one under the “you never know what’s going to catch your eye” category, but it may be enough of a subject to prompt a survey question or two about the efficacy of the process.

On the FAQ front, the folks in Chicago have uploaded one that addresses patient-use refrigerators. Not wanting to be a spoiler (or “spoilah” as it is sometimes uttered in Bawston), but if you wanted to guess that there might be an element of risk assessment in the mix, I, for one, would make no move to disabuse you of that notion. I guess the more things get updated, the greater the likelihood that certain themes will manifest themselves over, and over, and over, and over…

In other news, guess we need to think about being a little more careful about what we purchase during those bake sales… I don’t know if you saw the piece last week about a couple of folks at a hospital in NC falling prey to some cannabis-containing baked goods. As events unfolded, the police ended up getting involved, etc., though no charges are to be filed (no drugs in the baker’s possession—I guess everything went into the batter), but I guess it does point out that we’re never too far away from Woodstock. I guess it’s time to update the “don’t take the brown acid” to “don’t take the brownies without a pedigree.” I wonder how this would play on the OSHA 300 log next year?

We mean it, man!

I’ve been watching this whole thing unfold for a really long time and I continue to be curious as to when the subject of managing workplace violence moves over into the survey of the physical environment. I think that, as an industry, we are doing a better job of this, perhaps as much as a function of identifying the component issues and working them through collaboratively as anything, but I don’t know that the data necessarily supports my optimistic outlook on the subject. One think I can say is that our friends at the Occupational Safety & Health Administration are going to be closing out the comment period soon (April 6, to be exact) on whether or not they need to establish an OSHA standard relative to preventing violence in healthcare and social assistance—if you have something to add to the conversation, I would encourage you to do so.

I do think that there are always opportunities to more carefully/thoughtfully/comprehensively prepare the folks on the front lines as they deal with ever greater volumes of at-risk patients (a rising tide that shows little or no sign of abating any time soon). They are, after all, the ones that have to enforce the “law,” sometimes in the face of overwhelming mental decompensation on the part of patients, family members, etc. As an additional item for your workplace violence toolbox, the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management has developed a risk assessment tool (with a very full resource list at the end) to help you identify improvement opportunities in your management of workplace violence. As I think we all know by now, a cookie-cutter approach rarely results in a demonstrably effective program, but what I like about the tool is it prompts you to ask questions that don’t always have a correct or incorrect response, but rather to ask questions about what happens in your “house.”

This topic somehow brings to mind some thoughts I had recently relative to the recalcitrance of some of my fellow travelers (meaning folks I encounter while traveling and not those that might have been encountered during the era of McCarthyism…) when it comes to following the directions of the TSA folks or other “gatekeepers” who keep things moving in an orderly fashion. I have seen folks in suit and tie pitch an absolute fit because they couldn’t skip to head of the line, had three carry-on bags instead of the allowed two, or had liquids in excess of what is allowed. I understand being a little embarrassed in the moment for the bag thing or the liquid thing, but to give the person who identified the issue a hard time makes no sense to me. And I think that sometimes our frontline staff fall victim to this type of interaction and have to suffer the consequences of an unhinged (OK, that may be a little hyperbolic, but I suspect you know what I mean) patron—even if they don’t have to endure someone taking a swing at them during these moments of tension. There was a day when the customer was always right, but now far too often, the customer is nothing more than an entitled bully and we have to make sure that our folks know we have their backs.

 

Roll over Beethoven!

As we mark the passing of yet another (couple of) pop culture icon(s), I’m feeling somewhat reflective as I place fingers to keyboard (but only somewhat). As I reflect on the potential import of Sentinel Event Alert #57 and the essential role of leadership, one of the common themes that I can conjure up in this regard has a lot to do with the willingness/freedom of the “generic” Environment of Care/Safety program to air the organization’s safety-related (for lack of a better term—if you have a better one that’s not really PC, send it on) dirty laundry (kick ’em when they’re up, kick ’em when they’re down). I’ve seen a spate of folks getting into difficulties with CMS because they were not able to demonstrate/document the management of safety shortfalls as a function of reporting those shortfalls up to the top of their organization in a truly meaningful way. As safety professionals, you really can’t shy away from those difficult conversations with leadership—leaky roofs that are literally putting patients and staff at risk (unless you are doing incredibly vigorous inspections above the ceiling—or even under those pesky sinks); HVAC systems that are being tasked with providing environmental conditions for which the equipment was never designed; charging folks with conducting risk assessments in their areas…perhaps the impact of reduced humidity on surgical equipment. There’s a lot of possibilities—and a lot of possibility for you to feel the jackboots of an unhappy surveyor. One of the responsibilities of leaders, particularly mid-level leaders—and ain’t that all of us—is to work things through to the extent possible and then to fearlessly (not recklessly) escalate whatever the issue might be, to the top of the organization.

I was recently having a conversation with my sister about an unrelated topic when we started discussing the subtle (OK, maybe not so subtle) differences between two of my favorite “C” words: commitment and convenience. My rule of thumb is that convenience can never enter the safety equation at the expense of commitment (I suppose compliance works as well for this) and all too often I see (and I suspect you do, too) instances in which somebody did something they shouldn’t have because to do the right thing was less convenient than doing the wrong (or incorrect) thing. Just last week, I was in an MRI suite in which there were three (count ’em: 1, 2, 3) unsecured oxygen cylinders standing (and I do mean standing) in the MRI control right across the (open) door from the MRI. There was nobody around at the moment and I thought if there was a tremor of any magnitude (and I will say that I was in a place that is no stranger to the gyrations of the earth’s crust) and those puppies hit the deck, well, let’s just say that there would have a pretty expensive equipment replacement process in the not-too-distant future. The question I keep coming back to is this: who thinks that that is a good idea? I know that recent times have been a struggle relative to segregation of full and not full cylinders, but I thought we had really turned a corner on properly securing cylinders. These are the times that try a person’s soul: tell Tchaikovsky the news! Compliance ≠ Convenience…most of the time.