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safety coaches


More than 400 YNHHS safety coaches attended the May 7 summit, where they learned about the challenges of being change agents, the importance of staff safety and a new “Just Culture” initiative to be launched in the coming months.

Safety Coach Program revamps for 2019 and beyond

It was a full house in Harkness Auditorium May 7 as more than 400 Yale New Haven Hospital employees from all disciplines and units attended the 2019 Safety Coach Summit with the goal of elevating the program to the next level.

The safety coach program began in 2015 as part of YNHH’s high reliability organization (HRO) efforts. Safety coaches are employees who have been trained to observe activities in their areas and provide feedback related to the five CHAMP safety behaviors (Communicate clearly; Handoff effectively; Attention to detail; Mentor each other; and Practice and accept a questioning attitude). Coaches are trained to observe daily practices, help coworkers form safe habits, gather and share safety stories, provide real-time feedback to peers and communicate vital safety information and concerns.

“Safety coaches mentor and encourage others to speak up for safety through words and actions,” said Karen DeSantis, safety and quality coordinator. “Since 2014 there has been an 80 percent reduction in serious safety events at YNHH. We’re seeing a sustained change in those numbers, and it is due in large part to the impact of the safety coaches.”

“Safety coaches are the backbone of everything we’ve been able to accomplish with HRO and safety behaviors,” said Kathleen O’Leary, executive director, Safety and Quality.

Based on safety coaches’ feedback on a survey, the program has been revamped for 2019 with a particular focus on training. Coaches suggested incorporating hands-on training in the SYN:APSE (Simulation at Yale New Haven: Advancing Patient Safety and Education) Center for Learning, Transformation and Innovation so they could practice providing positive and corrective feedback.

“Humans don’t like being corrected – it’s an uncomfortable feeling,” DeSantis said. “Simulation provides a non-threatening environment where coaches can experiment with giving and receiving feedback under various conditions in a number of scenarios.”

Ryan Telford, RN, clinical nurse specialist, Smilow Waterford, recently completed a SYN:APSE session, which he said greatly enhances safety coach training.

“It was a very positive experience. Role playing these situations is always a benefit, as it brings you closer to real-life scenarios and the emotions involved, and gives you tools that you can bring back to use in the unit,” he said.

Additional Safety Coach Summit activities included presentations by Steven Choi, MD, YNHHS and Yale Medicine chief quality officer, about the challenges of being change agents; Jodie Boldrighini, executive director of Human Resources for Greenwich and Bridgeport hospitals, about the importance of staff safety; and Stephen Jones, MD, YNHHS medical director of Safety, about “Just Culture,” an HRO initiative that will be rolled out in the coming months. The agenda also featured several safety coach success stories and new, interactive tools.

Employees interested in becoming safety coaches should contact their managers for details.