The story of LfE from the National Maternity Hospital, Dublin

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This guest blog post is from Associate Professor Mary Higgins, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist:

 

In October 2016, inspired by the work of the LfE group, we decided we had to run a LfE pilot within our unit. The National Maternity Hospital, Dublin, is a tertiary level standalone maternity unit in Dublin with more than 9000 births per year. To say we are busy is an understatement, but we wished to remind ourselves that the “majority of healthcare interactions result in positive outcomes” and, that we needed to study high quality practice.

The last few years have not been easy for those working in maternity care. The high profile media coverage of adverse outcomes, reduction in public confidence and increasing complexity has provided many, daily, ongoing challenges for staff. On the ground it has resulted in increased frustration and burnout amongst both clinical and non-clinical staff. There is a real and heartfelt wish to continue to provide high quality evidence based care to women and their children, but the demands on the service and the expectation of perfection makes this a real challenge.

In common with others, our approach to clinical risk and safety is largely focused on a reactive approach to safety. In addition, we have seen the toll taken on staff after an adverse event. While the patient is, and always be, the primary focus of concern, staff involved may also be affected (the “second victim”) as well as the healthcare organization (the “third victim”) – we have chosen to call this the “Domino effect”.  Second victims have been shown to have increased rates of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, lack of clinical confidence and suicidal ideation.

The idea of “Safety II” being based on the concept of resilience caught our attention – the ability of an organisation to adapt to changes in conditions. Anyone who works in clinical care is familiar with “work around” – we do it on a daily basis to deal with our work. Maybe it was time to recognize that this workaround is ok, and should be applauded?

Research

We decided to run a whole hospital LfE pilot within one calendar month (October, 2016).  Following an intensive review of the literature on “Safety II”, appreciative inquiry and the impact of second victims, as well as reviewing advice from the PICU team (which, in retrospect, probably should have included rereading the advice to start small), the project began with a hospital wide information campaign and included both clinical and non clinical members of staff. Email and face-to-face contact was made with all departments in order to inform them of the pilot, the evidence base supporting it and how to report examples of excellence. Forms were circulated requesting examples of both individuals and team excellence and there were weekly reminders during the month encouraging reporting.

As individuals and groups were identified, a “Gold Star” award was presented to the nominee(s) – these were both given directly to the nominee(s) and publicly published on a notice-board on the hospital canteen. If appropriate each nominated team/individual received a copy of the nomination form so that they could identify what were the circumstances of the specific area of excellence. Themes were identified by content analysis of forms. A hospital wide presentation was made at Grand Rounds in November, when all nominated teams and individuals were identified, and a short video on this presentation was made and uploaded to the hospital intranet for those who could not attend. Possible patient identifiers were removed in order to protect confidentiality.

Effect on the organization

Eighteen teams and 27 individuals received nominations for LfE; four LfE themes were identified.  The first, “Excellence in Daily work”, was illustrated by examples from the operating theatre team, neonatal intensive care, Human Resources, postnatal wards, pharmacy and diabetes team amongst others. These examples illustrated the importance of high quality care every day – what is done every day makes a positive difference to women and their children.

The second theme “Identifying problems, proactively solving them” illustrated staff led initiatives to combat issues of importance to patients and staff – education for women on early labour, coverage of Cariban, morning antenatal classes, staff planning in Community midwifery.

The third theme “Emergency Care” used real life clinical scenarios where good communication and team work made a difference – staff were described as “excellent” and “calm, unflappable”, handover as “seamless”, care was “compassionate” and “supportive”.

The final theme of the LfE pilot reviewed “Educational Initiatives” where opportunities were taken to teach on the ground – use of epilepsy medications, care with urinary retention and a Medical Social Work conference on Domestic Violence. One of the most poignant examples was that of Chaplaincy running a debriefing session for staff – ten staff were anticipated, 35 arrived.  There was minimal time to adapt to larger groups needs so ground rules had to be established. Guided meditation was used to “appropriately express emotions and confidently support each other, bringing session to dignified close”. Afterwards, a reflection by facilitators established that they had a common desire to provide the best possible understanding and professional support to their colleagues, in order to provide a good solid debriefing session based on collaboration and cooperation. Staff came away feeling understood, supported and minded

The effect of the LfE programme on staff has been incredibly valuable, resulting in increased discussion of positive outcomes, and a commitment to recognize what has been done well and to continue as well as improve our high quality care.

Having completed the pilot, the organizing group now plans to continue “LfE” into the future, in order to use appreciative inquiry and Safety II principles to balance teaching, learning and clinical care. In order to succeed an organisation needs a “Goldilocks” level of positive to negative feedback – too much positivity may become insincere, too little and there may be burnout.  The LfE pilot and programme aims to return this feedback to a healthier balance in this maternity unit in order to continue to be able to provide high quality, evidence based patient centered care.

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