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  • Writer's pictureStephen Harden

Change is Possible

Sometimes, the first thing we really need to know is that culture change is possible...

What if someone sent you a great story about an ultra-lightweight backpacker?1 A story about an experienced hiker that had developed a system to carry a super-small pack that weighed only 14 pounds including food and water. (Most backpacks for serious hikers weigh about 40 pounds. Our military troops routinely carry 70 pounds or more in their packs.)

Would you believe it?

Would you want to know how he did it before you believed it?

What if, when asked how he got his pack weight so low, he replied, “First, you really need to know that it’s possible.” Yes, we all want to know “how” to create a true culture of safety. But sometimes - to get started on the journey - we just need to know that it is really possible.

What if someone sent you a story about a hospital that actually had their surgeons asking to lead the Surgical Safety Checklist? A hospital where surgeons complained when they operated at the “other” hospital across town because it didn’t have the culture of the one in the story. A hospital where physicians explicitly invited nurses and other staff to “speak up.” A hospital where staff exhibited a true “stop the line” behavior when threats to patient safety were detected. A hospital where debriefings were routinely done and daily continuous quality improvement was a way of life.

Would you believe it?

Would you want to know how they did it before you believed it?

One of the beauties of the digital age is that web-based connections like this one constantly report on what’s possible. Somewhere in the world, someone is doing something that you thought couldn’t be done in your organization. By pointing out the possibilities, by telling you what is indeed possible, this reporting of possibility changes everything.

You can view this as a burden, or as something that raises the bar and eliminates any hint of comfort and hiding you might normally find in the thought, “It can’t be done.”

Or, you can embrace it as a chance to stretch and reach what others have accomplished.

Culture change - it can be done...and has been done.

Want to know more about the hospital I described above? Hit the link to read one of their TeamSTEPPS newsletters (they call their program CRM). Note the level of feedback they give not only to staff, but to physicians as well. Behavior that gets rewarded, gets repeated. This hospital has true physician partnership in their TeamSTEPPS (CRM) implementation and it is one of the reasons they have successfully changed their culture.

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