Patient Health and Employee Safety Go Hand In Hand in Healthcare

The Joint Commission, the organization which accredits over 19,000 healthcare facilities in the US has published a report describing the need for synergy between patient health and employee health. The Joint Commission worked with both the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) and the Social Assistance Sector Council in producing this volume.

This report can be considered a sequel to the 2009 NORA report “State of the Sector Healthcare and Social Assistance,” with input from many of the same individuals. The NORA report documents and criticizes the health industry for its disproportionate number of accidents compared to other industries and in the executive summary has the following statement:

The [Healthcare and Social Assistance] HCSA sector is burdened by the historical and entrenched belief that patient care issues supersede the personal safety and health of workers and that it is acceptable for HCSA workers to have less than optimal protections against the risks of hazardous exposures or injuries. Because patients and providers share the healthcare environment, efforts to protect patients and providers can be complimentary, even synergistic, when pursued through a comprehensive , integrated approach.

The Joint Commission report again highlights the problem and emphasizes the importance of considering safety as a whole and not separated between patient safety and worker safety. The goal of the report is described as follows:

This monograph is intended to stimulate greater awareness of the potential synergies between patient and worker health and safety activities. Using actual case studies, it describes a range of topic areas and settings in which opportunities exist to improve patient safety and worker health and safety activities. This monograph is designed to bridge safety-related concepts and topics that are often siloed within the specific disciplines of patient .

The report details methods to improve safety from a high level systems perspective down to guidance and links to resources showing where information needed to implement these changes may be found. The report also contains a number of case studies where improvements in safety were made; though the number of case studies is perhaps a little limited.

Overall, this report is a valuable contribution to improving both patient and worker safety and this blog encourages everyone who is involved in worker safety in healthcare to read it. We all look forward to reading the future report that describes how all the occupational safety problems have been solved and healthcare facilities across the country have a safety culture that embraces both patient and employee safety. While this Joint Commission report is definitely a step in the right direction, it may be a while before this final volume is written.