Thriving and surviving: How one initiative came at the right time

February 9, 2022  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership, ,

Over the past few years, the term “HRO” has been buzzing in our ears. From training to successful patient stories to effective chain of command processes and even improved communication skills, HRO has made an impact on our organization. 

While the HRO launch was taking off, the pandemic presented many unique challenges. Colleagues witnessed frequently changing procedures and policies, the need for swift decision making, and communication of rapidly changing plans for a shift or a clinic based on staffing and other constraints. There has also been a much different work/home balance. This is where high reliability has helped us in a time of crisis. Our teams have better situational awareness when leaders are rounding, when huddles occur, and when staff speak up with safety concerns. The HRO Universal Skills have been key tools for the organization including but not limited to: clear communication, encouraging a questioning attitude, escalation of problems or concerns and listening skills.

“High reliability has helped us not only survive but thrive during difficult times,” said Nicole Templeton, MHSA, R.N., CPPS administrative director, Office of Patient Safety and HRO leader.

 “Everyday, we see people putting safety first in decisions and maintaining relationship skills when things get tough. This is proving that we are better together.”

Changing the culture

As an organization, we have invested in our staff and faculty to learn universal skills for error reduction and have made great strides in creating a culture of safety and reliability. 

“We see HRO happening in so many units, departments, clinics and offices – it is really encouraging to see us all come together, committed to patient and staff safety,” said Templeton. “However, we still have work to do.” 

While the organization can be proud of how high reliability trainings and tools were used during the pandemic, there is still work to be done to continue fostering psychological safety to build trust, so everyone feels comfortable escalating a concern or safety issue without fear of retaliation. Establishing a culture of safety remains essential as we continue the journey to high reliability.

Using the HRO tools consistently and reliably to prevent error, no matter what your role within the organization, will allow the organization to continue its commitment to excellence. These tools are critical, especially when multitasking or in stressful situations. 

Refresh those HRO skills by reviewing the information below and encourage others to do the same.

Universal Relationship Skills Infographic
Universal Relationship Skills Images for Presentations
HRO Website

Our Promise

Everyone can incorporate the safety promise in their work by:

  • Remembering: Safety is our most important priority.
  • Speaking up if you see conditions that may lead to harm.
  • Sharing examples of colleagues demonstrating high reliability behavior.

Things employees can do in order to demonstrate relationship skills

Even though a large portion of colleagues are working from home, there are still ways to demonstrate the Universal Relationship Skills. These skills apply to all levels of employment. 

Smile and greet others and say ‘hello’

  • Smile and say “hello” in virtual meetings. 
  • When in-person with coworkers or patients/families, wave and verbally greet. For example, “Good morning” or “How are you today?”
  • Check in via Skype or another platform with members of your team. For example, “Hi there. Just saying hello and please let me know if you need any help today.” 

Introduce using preferred names and explain roles

  • Refer to others by their preferred — usually their first — name. For example, “this is Doctor Ashby, he prefers to go by his middle name, John.”
  • Explaining roles — to both team members and patients/families — helps everyone to learn names and makes sure all the right team members are there if working on a non-familiar team. When virtually introducing a colleague, be sure to type their information in the chat (if available) for others to see. 

Listen with empathy and an intent to understand

  • Listening with empathy is giving of yourself. 
  • Repeat short phrases to indicate understanding. Short verbal affirmations are best — such as “yes” and “I see.” Do not tell others you know how they feel.
  • With some lag time in technology, be sure the person is done with their statement before you begin talking. 
  • Have empathy for your colleagues and patients/families during this unprecedented time. 

Communicate the good intentions of your actions

  • It is important to communicate to colleagues and patients/families exactly what you are doing and how your action will benefit them and contribute to attaining shared goals.
  • Responding to an email within a timely manner to explain that you are currently working on a response is a major way to demonstrate this skill. 

Provide the opportunity for others to ask questions 

  • Provide opportunity for others to ask questions by pausing and making eye contact.
  • Also, think about ways to help patients ask questions that they may not feel comfortable articulating during an appointment.
  • When in a meeting, allow time for questions at the end.