June marked the celebration of National Safety Month, and it got me thinking. While we admittedly tend to focus on patient safety in our industry and devote a week each March to promote its importance, we're remiss if we overlook the link between general safety in the workplace and patient safety.

The theme for this year's National Safety Month, "What Do You Live for?" puts it all in perspective. We all have something we live to see or experience; by engaging in safe behaviors, we can help ensure we live for what matters to us.

The link between employee and patient safety is an issue that the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) has been calling attention to since 2013. NPSF's Lucian Leape Institute Report, "Through the Eyes of the Workforce: Creating Joy, Meaning, and Safer Health Care," (PDF, 999 KB) suggests that the most fundamental precondition to patient safety is workforce safety. Your workforce needs to know that their safety is an enduring and non-negotiable priority for the governing board, CEO and organization as a whole.  Understanding that their well-being is a priority enables your workforce to be meaningfully engaged in their work and more satisfied. They'll also be less likely to experience burnout and, conversely, more likely to deliver more effective and safer care.

NPSF's seven strategies to amplify workforce and patient safety:

1 | 


Develop and embody shared core values of mutual respect and civility, transparency and truth telling, safety of all workers and patients, and alignment and accountability from the boardroom through the front lines

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Adopt the explicit aim to eliminate harm to the workforce and to patients

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Commit to creating a high-reliability organization (HRO) and demonstrate the discipline to achieve highly reliable performance.

4 | 


Create a learning and improvement system and adopt evidence-based management skills for reliability

5 | 


Establish data capture, database and performance metrics for accountability and improvement

6 | 


Recognize and celebrate the work and accomplishments of the workforce regularly and with high visibility

7 | 


Support industry-wide research to design and conduct studies that will explore issues and conditions in health care that are harming our workforce and our patients

In my travels this year with the American Hospital Association (AHA)-McKesson Quest for Quality Prize® site visit team, I was encouraged to see some leading healthcare organizations are beginning to encourage employees to report employee safety concerns, hazards and near misses in the same way that they report those related to patient safety. As more organizations recognize and link the two areas, we should see improved outcomes in both patient and employee safety and greater joy and meaning in our work and what we live for.

To learn how to put these employee and patient safety strategies into action in your workplace, read the report (PDF, 999 KB) and check out the toolkit.

This blog post originally published on the Better Health 2020 blog in June 2015.