Patient safetyview all PSTRC blogsWorkforce Engagement

Improving wellbeing and safety at work using collective wisdom: what more can we learn from other sectors?

In collaboration with Veterinary Surgeons Sarah Hunt and Caroline Dennis

Our aim as a Patient Safety Translational Research Centre (PSTRC) is to learn from and draw on ideas from other sectors. Healthcare has done this successfully in the past. For example, procedures used in aviation inspired the use of the surgical safety checklist and the racing car industry has provided insight into safer handovers during complex care. However, other topics that are relevant to many safety-critical organisations, including healthcare, are how staff make difficult decisions in uncertain and difficult situations and how we enable staff to do their job safely.

Safety-critical industries: what are the links?

Sectors such as healthcare, veterinary medicine, maritime, police and fire services share important aspects in their day to day work. They are high risk, complex environments. But links run deeper than this. Workforces in these sectors are increasingly under pressure to perform well despite limited resources. Staff are working in time-critical situations where high stakes decisions have to be made, often in the context of limited or incomplete information. In addition, they are also under constant scrutiny with the threat of litigation if something goes wrong. These disciplines are therefore all facing similar issues in terms of the impact on the staff delivering the service. Staff sickness, burnout, and turnover are all consequences and the evidence of the link between wellbeing and the effectiveness and safety of the service being delivered is growing. Our own work has shown links between staff wellbeing and patient safety in a healthcare setting (e.g. Hall et al, Johnson et al, Louch et al) and conversations with colleagues working in other safety-critical sectors have indicated that they too are facing similar work-related issues that affect safety and wellbeing.

What has already been done to address this?

Colleagues in other sectors such as veterinary medicine – the VetLed HALT Campaign and Vets Now, police and the fire service now recognise the important link between staff wellbeing and safety and are beginning to develop solutions. In 2005, the BMJ and Veterinary Record issued a joint special issue which sought to stimulate debate about possible links between approaches in human and veterinary medicine to improve practice. More recently, interest in attempting to improve healthcare safety by bringing together perspectives from human and animal healthcare has emerged. However, while such initiatives demonstrate potential value, they remain sparse.

How can we move forward?

We think there is now a need to foster synergy and promote learning from each other by sharing perspectives and insights. This will allow us to develop a collective wisdom and move beyond our own professional communities; forming a collaborative approach to the shared challenges posed by the link between wellbeing and safety. Through doing this, we hope sectors will be encouraged to consider strategies that are being implemented in each other’s industries, increase knowledge about how these strategies shape the work environment and impact wellbeing and safety, and whether they are transferable to other settings. This will enable us all to develop alternative and novel strategies which are of value to others as well as within the context from which they originate.

What next: a shared interactive workshop

We are bringing together individuals interested in enhancing staff wellbeing through learning from and sharing with colleagues in other sectors for an innovative interactive workshop at our national patient safety conference on 15th October 2019.

The workshop will include colleagues from veterinary medicine, fire, police, maritime and healthcare services who will:

  • explore the concept of well-being and its impact on aspects of safe practice from each of their service sector perspectives
  • share experiences and insight across different service sectors
  • explore common factors affecting well-being at work and identify current strategies to address these
  • explore how to take forward shared learning and insight

How can I get involved?

You can follow our workshop on Twitter #wellbeing4safety

For more information about this work please contact: Jane Heyhoe or Gillian Janes