Saturday, March 21, 2009

The waste patrol at work, all 6000+ of them!

I love that people throughout the hospital are now involved in ferreting out waste. And I like it even better that they are calling out problems they see. And I like it even better when our managers treat these comments politely and respectfully, even when they sometimes have to explain why suggestions might not always be the best possible idea. Here's an email chain from today between one of our nurses, me, one of the vice presidents, and then another who had been copied. (I have changed the nurse's name for privacy purposes.)

Saturday, 9:14am
Hi Paul,

I was frustrated this morning when I came into the West Campus front entrance to find a new dispenser of complimentary umbrella bags for visitors. Why would we be purchasing something so unnecessary as this when we are being forced to give up [other things]? I really felt this was inappropriate.


Saturday, 9:23am
News to me, Mary, although I could imagine that we do it to keep wet umbrellas from dripping all over our floors, which would then have to be cleaned up. I'll inquire around. Diana?

Saturday, 10:37am

Thanks for your note-I know it is frustrating in these times to see something that looks like waste!

As you probably know, we've been doing a lot of work on employee safety through the Spirit initiatives. There have been literally hundreds of employee slips and falls in the last several months. Besides the pain of these incidents for the employee, slips and falls result in a major cost to the medical center in claims and lost productivity.

When the slips and falls committee, chaired by Jayne Sheehan and Michael Kennedy, investigated the root cause of these events, they discovered a significant number occur in lobbies when employees (and patients) slip on water that has dripped off of umbrellas. The umbrella bags are an inexpensive solution to help keep our employees and patients safe. (And eliminating just one claim from a bad fall will more than cover the cost of the bags!)

Please feel free to contact me if you would like more information. Thank you again for your note!


Saturday, 10:47am
Thanks, Diana and Mary,
Yes, Michael and I spent a lot of time investigating real time slips during inclement weather. It was clear the dripping umbrellas caused a wake of slips for not only our employees but our patients, particularly on the slick terrazzo floors and vct floors. We immediately looked into solutions to allow folks to keep their umbrellas, but leave a safe path behind them. Michael found a great solution, used in many other environments, and thought bringing it to the health care environment would serve the same purpose.

Important to note, is that the expense of all umbrella trees and the bags came to 1/10th of the cost of one employee injury where an employee may be then out for one or two days of leave. I felt it is well worth the minimal dollars to keep our staff who hurry a lot from campus to campus and our patients and their families safe.

Thank you, as always, for your thoughts and concerns during this fiscally challenging environment.
Jayne Sheehan

Saturday, 12:20pm
OK, thank you all for your responses. That certainly sounds reasonable and well thought out.



Barbara Olson, MS, RN, FISMP said...

I really like your blog, and really, really like this post. What a great way to provide feedback to people on the frontline!

I blog about improving reliability in healthcare systems over at Closing the loop on good questions like the one Mary asked must boost the reports your team gets. Great program, thanks for making it visible to others!


Anonymous said...


For the past two weeks I have read about your innovative yet sensible approaches to problems (potential layoffs, calling-out program, waste patrol). I assume these are only the tip of the iceberg at your organization and that you have set the tone for a culture of openness, honesty, transparency, collegiality, and teamwork.

I am a seasoned surgeon at a 'normal' institution that, like most, struggles with issues such as respect, trust, and accountability. Your organization sounds like a brave new world that I (and I am sure others) would yearn to work at.

I am tempted to quit my job and talk you into allowing me to serve as a low-paid, entry level intern, working in your office to hone my leadership skills. We could use more organizational cultures in healthcare like the one you have developed; less obsessing about all that is wrong with healthcare, and instead blazing new trails to make it better, for patients and employees, bit by bit.

Got an extra desk and PC? No chair or fancy office needed!

Anonymous said...

Come on over!