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Hospital safety program wins national award

July 8, 2015

Jocelyn Bennet & Dr. Lesley Wiesenfeld accept the 2015 Healthcare Safety Award

Mount Sinai's Jocelyn Bennett and Dr. Lesley Wiesenfeld accept the 2015 National Healthcare Safety Award

‘Preventative medicine’ is taking on a new meaning at Mount Sinai Hospital where a proactive approach to keeping both patients and staff safe has just been recognized with a national award. The 2015 National Healthcare Safety Award from the Canadian College of Health Leaders celebrated the success of Mount Sinai’s Safe Patients/Safe Staff Program, which provides resources to help staff safely and effectively care for patients who are at risk of aggressive or dangerous behavior while in hospital.

Hospital stays can be very distressing and disorienting for some patients, particularly elderly patients who suffer from dementia or other mental health issues. Certain health conditions can also cause delirium in patients with no history of mental illness. The result can be impulsive or defensive behaviour that can put patients at risk by compromising their care, and increasing the likelihood of staff experiencing harm and burn-out as they care for these patients.  

Mount Sinai’s Nursing and Psychiatry teams are working together to address these challenges. These departments jointly developed the Safe Patients/Safe Staff Program, led by Dr. Lesley Wiesenfeld, Head of Geriatric Psychiatry Consultation Liaison Service and Deputy Psychiatrist-in-Chief, and Jocelyn Bennett, Senior Director of Urgent and Critical Care. Initial results show a 20% drop in staff reporting being targets of incidents of aggressive behaviour.

“These strong results show that Safe Patients/Safe Staff is making a difference,” said Ms. Bennett. “The program is an important part of our commitment to creating an organizational culture of safety that supports staff and provides the best care to our patients. It is an innovative approach that balances staff and patient safety, to the benefit of everyone involved.”

The program has two key areas of focus:

  • Identifying risk factors for dangerous behavior early, before an incident takes place. This ensures that staff can deliver compassionate care and ease vulnerable patients through stressful situations. It is done using staff training, electronic screening of medical chart and regular updates at meetings.
  • Mobilizing of a special team of nurses called BOOST (Behavioural Optimization and Outcome Support Team), who immediately perform an assessment and engage any specialists required. Led by clinical nurse specialists Carla Loftus and Mavis Afriyie-Boateng, BOOST is always on-call. Together with the original care team, they determine a strategy for managing the risk and a care plan that will meet the patient’s needs.

“We developed our Safe Patients/Safe Staff Program to improve the hospital experience for our most vulnerable patients, their families and the dedicated clinicians who provide frontline care,” said Dr. Wiesenfeld. “As we refine and evaluate our efforts, we continue to strive for responsive, person-centred care and a culture of compassion towards our patients and our staff.”

The program’s success has garnered interest from other hospitals and health-care organizations.

“This award speaks to the national leadership of the Safe Patients/Safe Staff Program,” said Dr. Molyn Leszcz, Psychiatrist-in-Chief at Mount Sinai Hospital. “We are very proud of the team for creating an innovative solution to this growing challenge. This is an important part of our efforts to treat the whole patient, offering an integrated approach to care for both the body and the mind by bringing together our medical and psychiatric expertise.”

Safe Patients/Safe Staff is the type of innovative program that may be adapted for different care environments as Mount Sinai Hospital joins forces with Bridgepoint Active Healthcare and Circle of Care as part of the new Sinai Health System. Established in January 2015, Sinai Health System aims to create a premier exemplar of an integrated health system for the future.