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Culture, management and the impact on safety

by Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor | October 13, 2020
Rad Oncology Risk Management
From the October 2020 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Mentors are also important, but maybe not how you’d think. Yes, a great leader can develop a great leader, but Turner points out that a poor leader can potentially develop a great leader too. “If they recognize all the things being done wrong and figure out solutions, the new leader can really shine,” she says.

Cheryl Turner
So how does leadership matter when it comes to safety? A good leader and effective culture mean when an employee sees something, they’ll be more likely to say something. If they see shortcuts that shouldn’t happen, or a co-worker who’s not pulling their weight, or even if they identify a mistake they’ve made, having the encouragement and being given the voice to raise the issue can prevent small problems from becoming big problems. And when the work you’re doing involves the potential to deliver lethal doses of radiation to a patient, big problems are the last thing you want for the patient, staff, and institution.

The idea that a mistake can be lethal is something Turner says absolutely contributes to employee stress and burnout. “When you realize you’re the last thing standing between a patient and a mistake, it can be overwhelming at times. That’s compounded by the challenge of having all kinds of things going on around you and work to keep track of that doesn’t necessarily tie directly to the care you’re providing for the patient.”

Again, the solutions for employee stress are clear: good management and good culture. The nuances are where the hang-up is. It requires caring for employees in a way that healthcare, by and large, isn’t configured to handle today. Employees are often overworked because departments are understaffed. “I had someone, when I did my research, who said she was working 12 to 14-hour shifts. She said it wasn’t the physical time — she could manage that. It was everything she had to keep straight in her head during that whole time. If you’re working with 100 patients in a 14 hour shift, think how much information you have in your head.”

Turner says she doesn’t expect things to change anytime soon, but one thing she would like to see is just the acknowledgement that therapists and radiographers and others in the profession are also subject to burnout, similar to that which has been so widely covered among nurses and physicians.

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