Implementing leadership rounds to improve patient safety
Available from: Kaveh Shojania
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ABSTRACT: This article is an exploration of views and experiences of Patient Safety Walkrounds, a widely recommended strategy for identifying patient safety problems and improving safety culture.
Qualitative analysis of semistructured, in-depth interviews with 11 senior leaders and 33 front-line staff at two major teaching hospitals with mature walkrounds programmes, collected as part of a larger mixed-methods evaluation.
Despite differences in the structure of the two walkrounds programmes, senior leaders at both institutions reported attitudes and behaviours that contradict the stated goals and principles of walkrounds. Senior leaders tended to regard executive visibility as an end in itself and generally did not engage with staff concerns beyond the walkrounds encounter. Some senior leaders believed they understood patient safety issues better than front-line staff and even characterised staff concerns as 'stupid'. Senior leaders acknowledged that they often controlled the conversations, delimiting what counted as patient safety problems and sometimes even steered the conversations to predetermined topics. Some front-line staff made note of these contradictions in their interviews.
Our study found that walkrounds may inadvertently lead to counter-productive attitudes by senior leaders at odds with the recommended principles of walkrounds. The results demonstrate similar attitudes from senior leaders at two hospitals with quite different formats for walkrounds, suggesting that this pattern may exist elsewhere. Better preparation of senior leaders prior to the walkrounds may help to avoid the counter-productive attitudes and dynamics that we identified.
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Walkrounds, introduced as Leadership (or Executive) WalkRounds, are a widely advocated model for increasing leadership engagement in patient safety to improve safety culture, but evidence for their effectiveness is mixed. In the English National Health Service (NHS), hospitals have been strongly encouraged to make use of methods closely based on the walkrounds approach. A study was conducted to explore how walkrounds are used in practice and to identify variations in implementation that might mediate their impact on safety and culture.
The data, collected from 82 semistructured interviews in the English NHS, were drawn from two components of a wider study of culture and behavior around quality and safety in the English system. Analysis was based on the constant comparative method.
Our analysis highlights how local, pragmatic adjustments to the walkrounds approach could radically alter its character and the way in which it is received by those at the front line. The modification and expansion of walkrounds to increase the scope of knowledge produced could increase the value that executives draw from them. However, it risks replacing the main objectives of walkrounds--specific, actionable knowledge about safety issues, and a more positive safety culture and relationship between ward and board--with a form of surveillance that could alienate frontline staff and produce fallible insights.
The studys findings suggest some plausible explanations for the mixed evidence for walkrounds' effectiveness in creating a safety culture. On a practical level, they point to critical questions that executives must ask themselves in practicing interventions of this nature to ensure that adaptations align rather than conflict with the intervention's model of change.
Available from: Anita L. Tucker
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