Making Patient Safety a Priority


There are several national organizations that publish patient safety goals including The Joint Commission and the Partnership for Patients.

Every hospital has a goal of improving patient safety – and most hospitals are working on one or more.  But the most important question is not what safety goals you are working on – but rather are your efforts making a difference in improving patient safety?

There are a lot of lists and recommendations about how to improve patient safety, but there is one common denominators – and what I consider to be critical element and that is the commitment of leadership including the governing board, medical staff and the C-suite (CEO, CFO, COO, CNO).

IHI states in their publication, Develop a Culture of Safety

… organization can improve upon safety only when leaders are visibly committed to change and when they enable staff to openly share safety information. When an organization does not have such a culture, staff members are often unwilling to report adverse events and unsafe conditions because they fear reprisal or believe reporting won’t result in any change.”

So the answer to the question where to start — is with Leadership!

A good source for leadership responsibility was published by ACHE in 2008 and which was reaffirmed in 2012:  But what if your leadership group is just not engaged – and seem to pass responsibility to the Quality department – or Nursing Leadership.   Here’s some tips that may help.


  1. Make safety visible. Talk about real events – both successes and failures – at every opportunity.
  2. Provide data and if possible include financial impact. Although I’m not saying that patient safety should ever be just a number — showing the impact of patient safety events in dollars and cents can be very powerful.
  3. Find a champion. Most organizations have both formal and informal leaders.  Find a champion (formal or informal) that is willing to help leaders understand their role and responsibilities.
  4. Complete a Culture of Safety survey. Data that shows both strengths and opportunities is one way to help leaders understand their role.  If you’re TJC accredited, you are required to complete a Culture of Safety survey periodically.


NOTE:  You may also be interested in another blog that I wrote recently, “Ten steps for improving patient safety and reducing harm events”.

Author: Carolyn St.Charles, RN, BSN, MBA, Regional Chief Clinical Officer





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