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Guest Editorial - The Most Critical Question
Maintain a culture of safety to keep patients and staff out of harm's way.
Dawn Yost, MSN, RN, CNOR, CSSM
Publish Date: October 21, 2021   |  Tags:   Patient Safety Staff Safety Opinion Workplace Culture

Every time we send out a staff engagement survey, we include the following question: Does your manager have a safety-first mindset?

The question may seem out of place on an engagement survey, but we feel it gets to the heart of what will always be our top priority: Keeping our patients — as well as those who care for them — free from harm. A safety-first mindset involves an obsessive adherence to a myriad of checklists, guidelines, policies and protocols, all designed to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks at even the most high-volume outpatient facilities. 

Of course, safety goes well beyond the evidence-backed procedures we use day in and day out. It’s a culture where your nurses are not only caregivers, but also advocates for the patients who walk through your doors — scared, vulnerable and, at certain points in the surgical journey, unable to speak for themselves.

Like most surgical leaders, I take this responsibility very seriously. It’s why, in addition to our time outs, an additional timeout is performed for laser cases. We encourage anyone to call a “Condition Stop” where anyone who’s in the OR can stop the case and question or clarify anything that seems less than routine or out of place. 

Safety is why we require everyone in procedure rooms, patients and surgeons alike, to use eye protection during laser cases and why we test the laser ahead of time to make sure the beam is accurate and fires precisely on target. Safety is why we’re meticulous about padding and positioning patients, right-sizing and using hover mats to achieve seamless patient transfers. Safety is why we allow our trained laser team, not our vendor representatives, to run the lasers. Yes, the vendor representatives may know their machines inside and out, but only staff members are familiar with our processes — and processes, protocols and policies are the cornerstone of safety.

As surgical advances reshape life in the OR, always remember to take a step back and ask yourself: 'Do we have a safety-first mindset?'

In this special edition of Outpatient Surgery Magazine, you’ll read about the latest best practices in smoke evacuation, sharps safety and MH training, as well as tried-and-true strategies for preventing wrong-site surgery, retained objects and slips and trips in the OR. You’ll also learn about the latest technologies designed to enhance the rigorous and proven safety processes healthcare providers use on a daily basis. Whether it’s the latest iterations of barcode-scanning sponge detection systems or cost-effective, life-saving smoke evacuators, the innovative devices on the market today represent game-changing safety upgrades — as long as they complement rather than compete with the proven manual processes we’ve relied on for decades.  

Thanks to technological innovations, we will see more robots and robotic applications in the near future. We’re already seeing an increase in general robotic, ENT navigation and bariatric cases, but these innovations should never take away from our face-to-face patient contact and our ability to do a proper time out. As surgical advances reshape life in the OR, always remember to take a step back and ask yourself: Do we have a safety-first mindset? 

If there’s even the slightest pause before answering in the affirmative, it’s time for a closer look at the processes you have in place. Because without a strong focus on safety, nothing else matters. OSM