Patient Safety at Blue Ridge Regional Hospital: What it Means, Why it Matters

March 13-19 is Patient Safety Awareness Week and it is accurate to say that patient safety is not just our top priority, it is our entire mission when we enter Blue Ridge Regional Hospital (BRRH) each day to care for our patients.

What you may find interesting is all that patient safety encompasses. There are so many factors that contribute to keeping a patient well cared for and free from harm, and our Administrative Director of Quality and Patient Safety, Dana McGee-Haynes speaks to that clearly and with great expertise.
“Patient safety is not just about examining measurable risk factors, such as falls or healthcare associated infections,” explains McGee-Haynes. “We analyze patient safety from every perspective and through the lens of every department at the hospital. In other words, each and every department at BRRH plays a part in patient safety, from our Environmental Services department maintaining the highest standards of cleanliness, to systems we have in place that recognize early on whether a patient is at risk for sepsis, a life-threatening infection-related condition.”

McGee-Haynes also notes that patients are screened for any skin breakdown (bed sores) during every shift, for MRSA infections, and great emphasis is placed on preventing common healthcare associated infections, such as urinary tract infections (UTIs), which a patient is at greater risk for when they are catheterized.

Specific, priority measures are also in place for patients transported via ambulance to the hospital Emergency Room for serious healthcare emergencies, such as accident-related trauma, heart attack, and stroke.

Mock code events are another example of strategies that look at keeping patients safe from a preventive perspective. “During these events,” says McGee-Haynes, “we have a staff member play the role of a patient coming to the ER with symptoms of a heart attack or other serious problem. We look at how quickly we can screen this person to determine whether we can treat them here or if they should be transported to Mission Hospital for an intervention.”

“The overarching work we do around patient safety is continuously working to create a culture of safety here at the hospital,” declares McGee-Haynes. “Extraordinary teamwork means well-coordinated care. If there is an opportunity to learn from a mistake, we prioritize a just culture where we do not come at a problem from a place of blame; instead, we seek to learn where, why, and how a process failure occurred. If we can refine the process, we can learn what to do to make things work optimally.”

McGee-Haynes highlights another indispensable practice that requires vigilance: daily morning and afternoon safety huddles where leaders meet to update each other on any safety issues that are present, from housekeeping issues to electronic health records management matters, and specific concerns for certain patients.

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed another layer of protocols to consider when it comes to patient safety. Universal masking, enhanced cleaning of the hospital, and limited visitation were all part of the “new normal” that got introduced two years ago. BRRH’s response to the pandemic reflects the ability that everyone at the hospital must have to pivot quickly as needs that impact patient safety change.

McGee-Haynes reveals that patient safety concerns do not end when a patient is discharged, either. “It is our responsibility to plan a patient’s discharge safely. The plan may change several times while they are in the hospital, and after they leave they may need home health care, things like oxygen or physical therapy services, care at a skilled nursing facility, or little to no follow-up care,” she relates, adding that palliative care and end-of-life hospice care must also be factored into a patient’s plan if needed.

Every staff member is responsible for patient safety, and McGee-Haynes describes how important employee safety is to patient safety as well. She is proud that BRRH received the North Carolina Department of Labor Gold Safety Award for the fourth consecutive year for keeping employees protected as they perform their important, lifesaving work.

BRRH has maintained an historically low inpatient fall rate, thanks to an engaged and robust Falls Team and other safeguards.
Since every team member at BRRH does all they can to provide each patient with a healing and safe experience while they are in the hospital and afterwards, the positive results we see not only make us proud, they should greatly reassure community members. If you come to BRRH for care, you are in a place where your caregivers’ minds and hearts are focused on one thing: your safety and wellbeing.

Tonia W. Hale, DNP, MAOM, BSN, RN, is Chief Executive Officer and Chief Nursing Officer of Blue Ridge Regional Hospital in Spruce Pine. Hale is a proven leader with 35 years of progressive healthcare experience. A native of East Tennessee, she holds an associate’s degree in nursing from Walters State Community College, a baccalaureate degree in nursing from the University of Tennessee, a master’s degree in organizational management from Tusculum University, and a doctor of nursing practice degree in executive leadership from East Tennessee State University. Ms. Hale is currently a resident of Burnsville.