Improving Worker Safety Improves Patient Safety

Safety in healthcare sounds like it should be an oxymoron, but in fact it is a pressing issue. It is well known that healthcare has historically put patient well-being ahead of worker safety with the result that non-fatal injury rates in US healthcare are among the highest of any industry (2013). This is not a new phenomenon, similar reports were coming out back in 2008. However, the trade off of worker safety for patient safety is a tragic fallacy.

NIOSH’s NORA (2009) and the Joint commission (2012) have both pointed out that rather than being competitive, worker and patient safety are synergistic. To get the best patient safety, healthcare facilities need to promote worker safety along with patient safety, which together form a safe environment.

This message was recently put forward again by Connie Barden (Chief Clinical Officer, American Association of Critical-Care Nurses in the key note speech at the 2014 AAMI/FDAQ Summit on Ventilator Technology. [1]

After commenting on the more than 400,000 deaths associated every year to preventable adverse events, at a cost of > $17 billion,[2] she went to say that improving patient safety … must be coupled with attention to creating healthy work environments. She emphasized that “We need to change the culture at the point of patients.”

She went on to say:

  1. There is a direct link between work environment and patient safety. Ergo, if you are not addressing your work environment, you are not addressing patient safety.
  2. Healthy work environments do not just happen, Ergo, if you do not have a formal plan in place addressing work environment issues, little will change.
  3. Creating health work environments requires changing long-standing cultures, traditions, and hierachies. Ergo, while everyone must be involved in the creation of healthy work environments, the onus is on organizational, departmental, and industry leaders to ensure it happens.

Even though Connie was speaking specifically about ventilator technology, her words are applicable to all of healthcare. The ChemDAQ blog  applauds and supports Connie and others who are promoting improved patient safety through improved worker safety in healthcare.



[1] AAMI Report. Creating a Culture of Safety, Priority Issued from the 2014 AAMI/FDA Summit on Ventilator Technology.

[2] Citing J.T. James, Journal of Patient Safety 2013, vol.9, no.3 – p 122–128

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