The Direct Link Between Hospital Safety and Patient Satisfaction

While patient safety is certainly top-of-mind in any healthcare facility, employee safety is just as critical.

There is a direct link between a patient’s overall healthcare experience and the strength of that healthcare facility’s employee safety program, according to Safety National experts Alleen Wilson and Tammy Cain Kraatz.

If an employee is compromised with either mental or physical fatigue, it often translates in how they perform their daily tasks, which can greatly affect the level of care extended to patients,” Wilson, Sr. Risk Control Manager of Risk Services at Safety National, says.

“Fatigue can put a great amount of stress on the body and affect us in the way that we communicate, our ability to think and can lead to detrimental mistakes that can adversely affect patients.”

By fostering a culture of safety and creating a positive work environment for employees, healthcare facilities can decrease employee turnover, influence productivity, and increase the quality of patient care. A vibrant culture of safety can also reduce workers’ compensation costs and lower lost workdays. Employees protected by this culture can then focus on helping patients achieve better clinical outcomes, leading to increased patient satisfaction.

“When someone is in the hospital, it means everything to the patient and family to experience a high level of care,” Wilson says. “This includes ensuring caregivers have an optimal amount of tools and knowledge to provide that patient the best care.”

Addressing Employee Risks

Creating a positive safety culture means confronting and addressing risks employees face on the job. According to Safety National, the top three exposures for healthcare employees are:

  • Overexertion (48%)
  • Slips, trips, and falls (25%)
  • Workplace violence (9%)


Overexertion in healthcare is an ongoing challenge. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overexertion injury rate for hospital workers is twice the average worker’s overexertion injury rate in the United States. The agency also states that manual patient handling is the single greatest risk factor for healthcare employees.

The best way to tackle the issue, Wilson says, is with a safe patient handling program put into place by the healthcare facility. A safe patient handling program would develop and implement policies involving all levels of management. This includes the implementation of patient assessments to determine their individual needs and the level of care they may require.

“Oftentimes, a safe patient handling and mobility program and equipment is viewed as being too costly,” Wilson says. “I would like to encourage you, if you know anyone that may think this, to conduct a return-on-investment study. Even just one injury where an assistive device could have been used [to prevent it] is far more costly than the cost of that piece of equipment.”

LHA Trust Funds recently launched the Safe Patient Handling Mobility (SPHM) Quality Initiative for members of the LHA Malpractice and Workers’ Compensation Funds. The program is designed to help implement safe patient handling best practices within individual healthcare organizations. The goals are to reduce the amount of sustained MSD injuries, improve employee satisfaction, and increase patient safety and positive outcomes within each participating healthcare facility.

Slips, Trips, and Falls

Many risk factors contribute to patient falls in a healthcare facility. Some of the top causes include a lack of proper bedside mobility assessment tools, communication failures, a lack of adherence to safety practices, and inadequate staff training. While some of these issues may require management’s intervention in terms of training and equipment purchases, many fall risks are “low-hanging fruit” that can be resolved by any staff member, Wilson says.

“Managing safety and risk management, it’s not just a one-person job. Everybody has a responsibility,” Wilson says. “Everybody has some type of onus to be able to communicate safety hazards and to be aware of what their surroundings are.”

The possibility of slips, trips, and falls in healthcare facilities is a common risk addressed by LHA Trust Funds risk management experts as well. To help empower staff members and prevent falls, we have created many educational resources now available in our Fall Prevention Toolkit.

Workplace Violence

While workplace violence as a risk factor reports a much lower percentage than other factors, the World Health Organization estimates between 8 and 38% of healthcare workers experience some sort of physical assault throughout their careers. Patient-to-staff confrontations account for approximately 80% of those encounters.

“It’s important to remember that many of these people that are creating the violence are not necessarily criminals, but rather people maybe not in their right mind or frightened, scared or sick people,” Wilson says.

Effective management begins with recognizing that workplace violence is a safety and health hazard, according to Safety National. There are many best practices linked with preventing or de-escalating violent situations, including employee training, record keeping, and communication.

LHA Trust Funds hosts a Managing of Aggressive Behaviors course for healthcare staff members to learn the principles, techniques, and skills for recognizing, reducing, and managing violent and aggressive behavior. The program also provides humane and compassionate methods of dealing with aggressive people. Our next MOAB class will be held in 2022.

In the meantime, LHA Trust Funds has developed several resources to train staff to recognize the signs of and manage aggressive behavior. View the Violence Prevention Toolkit for training materials, guides, and sample policies.

Bringing It All Together

Best practices to address all three top exposures for healthcare employees have one thing in common: Employee empowerment. A positive culture of safety allows employees to learn from their mistakes through retraining or a review of facility policies and procedures. Building trust with employees also encourages motivation and creativity in solving problems they observe or encounter in their daily experiences.

“What makes your organization different, at the end of the day, really comes down to your employees,” Kraatz says. “They're such an important part for the patient to have that experience you want to have every patient have.”

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