True commitment to patient safety requires action, not just statements about its importance. Organizations fully committed to safety designate a dedicated patient safety officer, an individual who promotes action through training of staff and implementation of proven methods. Ideally, safety would be the patient safety officer’s primary occupation, not an extra task in addition to other jobs.
- Make the position one of high rank in the organization so the patient safety officer will have the authority to act and remove barriers to change.
- Have regular meetings between the patient safety officer and the chief executive officer.
- Provide educational opportunities to the patient safety officer so he or she can continually seek best practices.
- Ensure that the patient safety officer has the resources and organizational support necessary to implement plans.
- Require the patient safety officer to make regular presentations to the organization’s governing body.
- Choose a clinician who is held in high regard by peers regardless of "rank" — someone who "walks the walk" and not just "talks the talk." While traditional choices might be a physician or nurse, other health care providers such as pharmacists should be considered. [Submitted by Daniel Speece, ACS Federal Healthcare, Inc., Alexandria, Virginia, USA]
Patient safety officers are important and key not only to the success of the Patient Safety program at any organization, but also to the success of the organization as a whole. Patient safety officers do not need to be clinicians. The knowledge and skill sets go beyond clinical specialization. Patient safety is about culture, error analysis, and teaching. Just a thought! [Submitted by William McDonough, MARSH, Boston, Massachusetts, USA]