Beating Burnout – Make Patient Safety Fun – “Didyah?”

Monthly Archives: June 2017

Beating Burnout – Make Patient Safety Fun – “Didyah?”

Can we Make Patient Safety Fun AND Beat Burnout at the same time? Take a look at this post from the Betsy Lehman Center that tells the story of how South Shore Health System in South Weymouth, MA has done it. It includes a YouTube video that will make you smile!

Full disclosure here – my wife shared the link with me after learning that our niece, Adrienne Gerlach, Director of Quality Management at South Shore, had produced the video.  So while this may be a bit of nepotism, I hope you will forgive me for it once you take a look at this inspiring story. And I hope it leads you to emulate this work in a way that fits your local culture.

How to Make Patient Safety Fun and Beat Burnout

We all know that hand washing is one of the most actions we can take to prevent hospital acquired infections or HAIs. We also know that despite being easy and inexpensive, it is one of the most difficult activities to get every person to do every time they should.

We’ve learned that we can significantly improve hand washing rates when doctors, nurses, and support staff feel empowered to remind their colleagues to wash their hands, especially right before they are ready to touch a patient and may have forgotten.  And yet, we find it uncomfortable to correct a colleague or superior in front of a patient.  This discomfort can put patients at risk when it holds us back from doing what we know is right – stopping someone who is about to touch a patient without first washing hands.

Wicked Funny – Putting an Accent on Patient Safety

I wish I could take credit for that line, but I lifted it from the Betsy Lehman Center posting.  Adrienne and the South Shore team developed a campaign to empower workers to make fun of the famous local Boston accent and dialect to create a wicked funny approach that cuts through the discomfort.  They strengthened the culture of safety by promoting the use of the word “Didyah?” whenever someone was unsure if their co-worker had washed their hands. This can be said in front of the patient in a way that the potential offender of not washing their hands does not have to take offense at the question.

Disarming the Drivers of Burnout with “Didyah?”

One thing I love about this work to make patient safety fun addresses many of the key drivers of burnout.  Let’s look at all six of the drivers and see the impact:

  • Work Overload – While “Didyah?” does not decrease work overload, we can’t forget that the reason we need to remind our co-workers is not because they don’t want to wash their hands, but because they are so busy they forget. Didyah? serves as a countermeasure to a consequence of work overload.
  • Lack of Control – We feel like we don’t have control in a situation where we see a colleague about to commit a risky action and don’t know how to stop it. “Didyah?” gives us a way to regain control.
  • Insufficient Reward – Professional respect is a key intrinsic reward for health care professionals who have committed years to education and training, and work hard to maintain professional competence. “Didyah?” allows a colleague to correct us in front of a patient without compromising our professional respect.
  • Breakdown of Community – Watch the YouTube video if you haven’t already.  You can see the entire community of South Shore Health System, from front line caregivers to the CEO come together in supporting this effort. You can feel the camaraderie!
  • Absence of Fairness – The campaign for “Didyah?” has been communicated widely and builds trust between co-workers – two key elements of improving a sense of fairness.
  • Conflicting Values – Clearly everyone is in this together, aligned around improving hand washing rates to reduce HAIs. “Didyah?” does not have a big budget impact, is easy to incorporate into daily routines, and enhances our clinical focus on patient safety.

Didyah Know It also Aligns with Lean Principles?

The two core Lean Principles are Respect for People and Continuous Improvement.  It’s easy to see how improving patient safety aligns with Continuous Improvement.  Perhaps a bit more subtle is the way “Didyah?” supports Respect for People. “Didyah?” empowers all health care workers to approach their colleagues with respect in high stakes situations, something that is often challenging.

I encourage you to find a way to capitalize on what makes your locale special, and build it into your culture of safety.

I’d love to have you add your comments on how you make patient safety fun, asking me “Didyah know what we did to improve patient safety?”

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