Why do leaders in healthcare today tolerate the preventable deaths of patients in their care? Is patient safety an intractable issue too large to fully take on? Could it be both worker- and patient safety doesn’t rise to the same level of priority as revenue and growth?
Or with everything confronting healthcare today, is change is just too hard?
This is a call for a few courageous leaders to take a stand, to act.
Twenty-five years ago, construction was considered a dangerous occupation. It was generally accepted construction workers would occasionally die on the job. That was just how it was: dangerous work, done by people who understood and accepted the risks.
This mindset persisted until a handful of true leaders emerged to challenge the acceptance of injury and death as the price of doing business. In time, this leadership spread throughout the industry, and today, most construction projects are built on the belief that every injury is preventable.
Has a moment like this arrived for health care leaders?
I led major construction projects for many years, and I remember one moment in the early nineties with great clarity. My team and I were reviewing the parameters of our project, discussing projections for cost, schedule, quality and safety.
When someone said, “statistically it’s predictable that two people will die on this project,” the room went silent.
It was in that moment, in that second, that we decided, “not on our watch.” We committed to ensuring that not only would no one be killed on our job, no one would get hurt. We were not naïve – we understood the statistics and the risks inherent in our work; but we took a stand: we declared that our project would be different, and we would create an “unpredictable” future. And we did.
We didn’t know how we’d do it. We had never done it before. But our commitment coalesced into action and innovation. It caused us to re-think every decision, to constantly ask, “What could go wrong? How can we make this more safe?” It caused us to challenge our assumptions about business-as-usual, and find novel solutions to ensure the safety of every worker.
What will it take for leaders in healthcare to take a similar stand, and declare their commitment to an unpredictable future – one free from harm to patients and health care workers alike?
I’ve been blessed in my life to have contributed to the wellbeing of others through my work and my charity. It’s gratifying to know that I have helped mothers and fathers, sons and daughters and husbands, wives and partners return home safely to loved ones from hazardous work environments. Even more rewarding is knowing that many of their lives have been forever changed, both on and off the job, because of this work.
But this work would not have been possible without visionary leaders willing to act. Leaders committed to a new future for their people and organization. Leaders with the courage to stop tolerating the status quo and be willing to risk their career for a benefit beyond self.
After thirty-plus years of making a difference in industrial construction, and prompted by a tragic medical error affecting my own family, I have turned my attention to healthcare.
It is unacceptable that as many as 400,000 patients per year die from the actions of healthcare workers and the healthcare system. And I find it unacceptable that healthcare injures more workers in the United States than any other sector, save agriculture. To me, the two are inextricably connected.
Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in our country today. What an irony that people who have committed their lives and careers to caring for the sick, people who do so much to save lives and ease suffering, also tolerate situations that allow simple errors to harm so many.
Deep in my heart, I know each death from healthcare harm is preventable. Yet many healthcare leaders tolerate the current, lethal reality.
Change is possible.
I’ve seen a global industry change its relationship to safety and asset protection. I was a part of shifting the construction culture to one in which every incident, every injury and every life mattered. I understand what it takes.
It is now my mission to help bring that change to healthcare. If I can help save one life in healthcare from what I have learned elsewhere, I will have made a difference.
Have you ever thought that you, as a leader, have the magic elixir that could solve a presenting issue? A solution that many think is too simple to work?
I’m seeking leaders who are ready to stop tolerating what they already deem unacceptable.
If that leader is you, let’s connect.