Use patient safety coaches to boost compliance

Accreditation Connection, April 5, 2004

Consider appointing patient-safety coaches on every unit to help staff comply with your patient-safety policies.

Coaches are often frontline staff who receive special training on key safety policies so they can provide oversight to help their coworkers adopt new practices.

Because they're in the trenches, coaches can commend staff when they follow recommended practices and gently prompt them to do so if they don't. They can also suggest ideas for modifying burdensome or difficult-to-follow procedures.

Your hospital likely invests significant time and resources to train staff on its patient-safety policies and procedures, including the JCAHO's National Patient Safety Goals. This investment will yield a net loss, however, if staff don't consistently comply with your policies.

Ideally, you should use a safety coach on every unit, suggests Robert Marder, MD, practice director of quality and patient safety for The Greeley Company, a division of HCPro, Inc., in Marblehead, MA.

Doctors Hospital in Columbus, OH, trains its nurses to act as coaches, called "safety liaisons."

The liaisons must complete a one-day safety orientation course specifically designed for them by the hospital (see the sample job description in the box below).


Sample assignment description: Nurse safety liaison

The following is a description of a safety liaison; it is not an exclusive job description. The statements are intended to describe the general nature and level of expected work that the safety liaison would perform. It is not an exhaustive list of all responsibilities, duties, and skills required of these personnel.


Represent the nursing unit/department in the hospital's patient-safety program and act as a safety liaison between the nursing unit/department, the safety office, and nursing staff.

Principal responsibilities

1. Promote occupational and patient-safety awareness and motivate coworkers to actively participate in the hospital's safety programs

2. Liaison with the safety officer and unit manager to ensure that staff adhere to the hospital's health and safety policies and procedures

3. Work effectively in a diverse environment and act in an appropriate manner as a representative of the nursing department

4. Follow the JCAHO's National Patient Safety Goals (NPSG) and the hospital's safety policies and procedures when providing patient care

5. Participate in workplace audits to identify hazards and unsafe conditions and work practices.

6. Immediately report identified hazards or unsafe conditions to the safety officer

7. Conduct a chemical inventory annually and ensure that the material safety data sheet binders are current and accessible to all employees

8. Help the unit manager and safety officer identify appropriate training programs in the areas of occupational health and patient safety

9. Help the unit manager promote unit-specific occupational-safety, infection-control, and patient-safety initiatives

10. Attend relevant safety conferences and training programs

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