How the industry can commit to healthcare workplace safety

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Our nation owes healthcare team members enormous gratitude. Throughout the pandemic, they have been a strong line of defense against COVID-19. Despite the demands of providing patient care for a disease unknown to modern medicine, with rapidly evolving information and new safety protocols, they came together to care for patients. They provided the best possible clinical care, and supported patients, families and each other in so many ways, whether their role was to keep hospitals clean, deliver food and nutrition, innovate to adapt care environments to improve safety, or provide administrative support.

Our communities have shown their support of healthcare workers in many inspirational ways with banners, food donations, social media outreach and more. As leaders, we have worked to adapt processes and provide new kinds of support to team members who are experiencing unprecedented stresses and demands, both physically and emotionally, at work and at home.

At Mass General Brigham, team member safety and well-being have always been a focus. We were pioneers in creating the Center for Professionalism and Peer Support at Brigham and Women’s Hospital to support clinicians through the emotional challenges that are inherent in patient care.

We recognize that equity, both within our walls and in our communities, is an essential element of safety. We are implementing equity and anti-racism programs for our employees, patients and their families. The COVID-19 pandemic has made two things abundantly clear: We can all do more to protect the safety and well-being of our team members; but we cannot do it alone.

That is why I am honored to be a member of the CEO Coalition, working with health system leaders from across the country to publish the Heart of Safety: Declaration of Principles. The declaration recognizes that the safety and well-being of all healthcare team members are the rights of every person who chooses to work in patient care. These principles are essential to the functioning of our nation’s healthcare infrastructure. Team members are safe when we protect their psychological and emotional well-being, promote health justice, and ensure physical safety with a zero-harm program.

Healthcare workers deserve a work environment that is optimized for their cognitive and emotional safety. They need to know they can seek and receive mental health support without fear of stigma. Making needed resources easily accessible and creating policies that advance open communication between team members and leaders will help people feel safe to speak up and cultivate a human-centered culture.

Healthcare workers deserve to know they will be treated equitably and without prejudice or bias by colleagues and that the patients they serve receive exceptional, respectful care, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, income or any other factor. They also deserve to know they will be physically safe at work, whether from infection, injury or workplace violence.

The CEO Coalition has one important goal, and it comes at an important time in the history of healthcare delivery—to measurably improve the safety and well-being of healthcare team members across the nation. I hope other hospitals and health systems will join us.



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