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Community members, staff earn Oaklawn's thanks during focus on patient safety

Patient safety week group photo

March 7, 2016

Community members, staff earn Oaklawn’s thanks during focus on patient safety

Community members and staff members who’ve contributed to Oaklawn’s focus on patient safety in the past year will receive a bow of gratitude during an upcoming observance.

“So many elements go into the day-to-day work of hundreds of Oaklawn employees when it comes to making sure patients are kept safe,” said Jane Jones, Oaklawn’s executive director of organizational excellence.

“These might include a simple way for messages to be shared among patients, their families and staff members caring for them, or finding new ways to help patients prepare to fight infections,” she said.

Oaklawn’s health-care professionals will join others across the country as they observe Patient Safety Awareness Week from March 13 through 19.

“The goal always is to improve the medical outcomes for our patients,” Jones said, “and it comes when we communicate with each other as health-care professionals, and talk with the people who actually use our services.”

Discussions among Oaklawn staff and community members, such as those with the Voice of the Consumer committee, have resulted in tangible procedural improvements, Jones said.

“Our staff persistently works to open up the conversation about the responsibility of caring for patient safety – and making it part of their responsibilities,” Jones said. “This special week calls attention to that.”

“Everyone at Oaklawn is an integral and active participant in our infection control program,” added Sarah LaSalle, Oaklawn’s infection preventionist. “They aren’t just aware of the challenge – they own it!”

The challenge includes helping patients themselves to take responsibility as well, she said. During 2015, for example, Oaklawn implemented a “nose to toes” preoperative bathing program patented by Illinois-based Sage Products Inc.

“The program uses bathing cloths and nasal antisepsis to reduce a patient’s bacteria burden before surgery to reduce the risk of bacterial infection after surgery,” LaSalle said. “It’s becoming a standard of care.”

Patients participate actively in the bathing process, using a set of bundled wiping cloths impregnated with a bacteria-destroying material that is chemically safe, she said.

“The feedback from the patients is that they realize they’re doing something themselves that will improve their outcome,” LaSalle said.

“We also work to educate patients before each operation to make certain they’re prepared for the procedure, because our patients play a major role in preventing infection,” LaSalle said. “It’s really a partnership between the patient and the hospital.”

Among the event’s goals is to instill an atmosphere within every participating health-care organization to create a culture of patient safety.

Another vital part of the focus on patient safety over the past two years has been the development of the Voice of the Customer Advisory Council, said Donna Darlington, a registered nurse who serves as Oaklawn’s quality improvement coordinator.

“These members of the Oaklawn team are residents of Marshall and our surrounding communities that attend committee meeting and safety events to express what the customer/patient is thinking, feeling or hoping for,” Darlington said.

The council has worked since 2014 to obtain advice from individuals who’ve visited the hospital, either as a patient with Oaklawn’s various medical services, or as a caregiver or family member.

“Because of some issues the group was able to identify, we’ve been installing new whiteboards in Oaklawn’s patient rooms to help patients and families communicate with the medical staff,” Darlington said. “They also help to standardize and improve the discharge process.”

The whiteboards offer a convenient and simple way for messages to be shared among patients, their families and staff members.

“It’s a great communications tool for anyone with interaction with the patient, and family can use it, too,” said Melissa Ryan, Oaklawn’s quality improvement representative and patient advocate.

Questions and concerns about pain control, activity levels, room cleanliness can be raised and resolved quickly using the whiteboards, which also serve as a source for personal and medical information that all agree may be displayed in the room, Darlington and Ryan said.

“We extend a special ‘thank you’ to all of the past and current members of the committee for their work in reviewing issues that have been addressed over the years,” Jones said.

“This group has done so much to help us, and to let us know what is important to the patient and the family.” Darlington said. “They’ve attended events to standardize and improve our discharge process for patients and staff, and have joined in analysis events so they could see and study what Oaklawn does to reduce risk for our patients.”

“It’s all part of a persistent effort to ensure that we hold ourselves to a high standard of accountability when it comes to patient safety,” Jones said. “We’re always trying to find new ways to do our job better.”

Patient Safety Awareness Week is an initiative of the National Patient Safety Foundation, a Boston, Mass.-based not-for-profit organization founded in 1997.

The foundation’s vision is to create a world where patients and those who care for them are free from harm. The foundation partners with patients and families, the health-care community, and key stakeholders to advance patient safety and health care workforce safety and disseminate strategies to prevent harm. More information about the event is available from UnitedForPatientSafety.org