Being a pilot has been described as being 99% boredom and 1% sheer terror, but it is rarely both – honest! However, like healthcare, it is fundamentally about managing risk and therefore managing workload.
In the world of aviation, we have a magic word - "unable" for those rare occasions when we cannot comply with, for instance, air traffic control instructions.
If air traffic control instructs the pilot to turn left, or climb, or descend, and for any reason, the pilot can't do it (for a technical or weather-related reason, for example), then the pilot will say "unable".
If you've watched the movie 'Sully' the miracle on the Hudson, you might remember Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger using the magic word "unable" when requested to turn to Teterboro airport. He uses the magic word, and nobody questions it.
Here at Atrainability, we've been introducing this Magic or Safeword concept to healthcare for some time. Critical teams could usefully have a magic word in place so that they can communicate effectively during procedures.
Of course, there needs to be a degree of sensitivity in choosing this magic word. It might upset a conscious patient to hear "Gorilla on the loose" or similar.
Some teams use the phrase "stop the line." This approach comes from the Toyota production line, where any member of staff is empowered to halt production if they see someone unsafe, inefficient, or ineffective taking place.
Some are using "10,000 feet", a reference to the other much-used aviation phrase that signifies no distraction or interruption for the time being. It comes from standard practice when commercial planes are near the ground – below 10,000 feet altitude. That's roughly the first and last 10 minutes of a typical flight.
We have the evidence from countless 'black boxes' that you're more likely to have an incident when not focused on the job in hand. In aviation, either enjoying the view "ooh look there's my house!" or discussing something inconsequential.
But "stop the line" or "10,000 feet" can be quite cumbersome and perhaps a little imported. It's preferable, I believe, for teams to devise their magic word.
There's a surgeon I know in one NHS hospital, as part of his daily team briefing, he asks what magic word they will use that day. That's a great approach to get teams to engage with magic word principle, but of course, if members of the group switch over during the day, it can be potentially problematic if someone new doesn't know the magic word of the day.
Some hospitals have a magic word at an organisational level. But that could feel like it's being imposed upon them. There's so much in healthcare where people need their independence, for their motivation and empowerment.
What matters is that every member of the team should feel able to stop what is taking place if they think anything is unsafe, or something needs to be clarified. They might say "unable" or "stop".
My wife and I have a magic phrase in case of emergency.
During a recent holiday, she said to me, "Trevor, I need you to help me!" She had caught her finger in a sunbed, causing a nasty injury and lots of blood when it was released. By saying, "need!", there was no doubt she need help Now. No confusion, no uncertainty.
Clarity is so important.
When you're piloting a plane and taking off or landing, your focus is quite reasonably ahead of you, so you're not making eye contact with your colleagues on the flight deck. Naturally, that means you can't detect non-verbal language like shifting in your seat with concern, as we would in ordinary life.
The same could apply if masked and gowned in a complicated or stressful clinical procedure.
When you use a Magic or Safeword, it's essential its use doesn't result in resentment from colleagues. We've got some way to go within the healthcare profession to understand this. Some cultures find it harder than others to accept the use of a magic word without associating it with disrespect or failure to follow a hierarchical structure.
So, to summarise, have you ever experienced a situation where someone either didn't speak up and challenge or wasn't heard or was misunderstood. With hindsight would a Magic or Safeword possibly have helped? I know some of you have got this already. Please spread the word!
Being a pilot has been described as being 99% boredom and 1% sheer terror, but it is rarely both – honest! However, like healthcare, it is fundamentally about managing risk and therefore managing workload.
I spent some time in a major NHS Trust the other week, delivering two days of training at a large hospital.
The training involved very senior management, and I took the opportunity to mention the recurring incident which involves two syringes of colourless medicines being mixed up on the scrub tray.
I asked the senior management in the room, "So how do you do it here? Do you colour code the syringes, barcode them, or add labels?"
A senior nurse in the room spoke up, explaining she put Steristrips on each syringe and writes onto these. But there's no standard hospital protocol, designed to prevent the potentially severe mix-up from happening.
Sitting in the corner was the senior manager responsible for all elective surgery in this hospital. She sat there with her mouth open, realising there was no guideline in place designed to avoid or trap an easily preventable mistake.
I had an email exchange with her the following morning, and she confirmed she had a team working on the problem straight away.
What if I hadn't delivered training at that hospital? What if she hadn't attended the course that day?
Sharing best practice and national standards are sadly sorely lacking in the medical profession.
We're aware of another hospital, where recently an anaesthetist told me she administered a child with Adrenaline, not Fentanyl. This is important because Fentanyl is an opioid, slowing the heart rate. Adrenaline speeds it up.
Following the medication mix-up, the team were questioning why the child had become tachycardic, thinking something must have been seriously wrong with him. Only on return to the anaesthetic prep-room was the mix-up noticed.
Probable cause? Working with a new ODP, who drew up the drugs in an unfamiliar way and cross-checking was secondary to social team building.
Sharing best practice is so important. It is a shame that there is rarely time for medical professionals to spend a little time down the road with their colleagues at other hospitals, learning from the way they do things.
You attend a conference, and someone will often share best practice. But they tend to talk about their own hot topic, their specialist research area. It becomes hit and miss whether you attend relevant sessions.
There are locations around the country, and indeed around the world, that have solved significant issues. But sadly all too often others don't know about it.
This reminds me of the famous Donald Rumsfeld statement, about the 'known knowns' and 'unknown unknowns'.
Working out your unknown unknowns by sharing best practice between different teams is a really valuable but arguably essential step.
I was delivering some training recently at a hospital which was using the latest version of Datix, the instant reporting system. They have the newest release in place, which allows you to report no-harm, near-miss incidents; something the old system would not let you do. We checked the drop-down menus together and confirmed this capability was included.
During a quiet moment later that day with the senior management, I asked about their near miss reporting. They gave me a puzzled look, and asked what I meant by near miss?
When I explained what I meant, they told me they didn't do that. This prompted a conversation about how near misses are the luck element that results in not harming patients.
It became clear that the management at this hospital had not thought of near-miss reporting in this way before. They were bright people and very nice people, very well-intentioned, but it just hadn't occurred to them.
What it seems we often do at Atrainability is point out the obvious.
By getting members of critical teams to think about those danger areas they already know about, and they need to be proactively addressing, it helps them recognise the tip of the iceberg.
These are the dangers sitting right in front of us. But the real threat is submerged below the surface. When no harm is done, there are no visible means of damage caused.
Analysing near misses comes back to root cause analysis. There will probably be several underlying conditions at play.
For example, if you have a nurse who is going to be scrubbing with a surgeon, who has never carried out that procedure before, compared with a nurse who has. The nurse who has carried it out before is likely to know what the surgeon needs next before they even ask for it.
In that scenario, it's important to know before you get started whether your colleague knows what they are doing, or not, because in one case it's going to be a bit longer, and require a lot more communication.
From my background as a pilot, a mandatory reportable incident is anything which had the potential to cause harm. It's all about that word, potential.
Where potential to cause harm is identified in the medical profession, it's essential those near misses are analysed and understood, before changes are introduced to reduce that potential in the future.
The hiatus was because the last time I flew I didn't do it well.
The weather, a year ago, had been admittedly not great, gusty and bumpy, and I didn't handle it well and the consequence was my inner confidence was damaged.
Yesterday the weather was perfect. No clouds and almost no wind with excellent visibility.
Flying light aircraft is quite high risk. Only one engine is not nearly enough!
Fresh in my mind yesterday was the picture of the burning crashed aircraft splattered across the M4 in South Wales. They all survived. Phew.
The instructor instils confidence. He used to fly and instruct on Concorde. Knows a thing or two and particularly how to rebuild confidence.
I've been flying solo since 1967 close to 52 years but that balance between confidence and arrogance is a very thin line.
But there's other stuff in play here.
I fly with a small flying club. Their insurance dictates I need to do three landings in 90 days to be qualified.
The National regulator – the CAA – requires that I fly with an instructor once a year and fly 12 hours in the next 12 months.
Oh, and I need to pass a basic medical too. Last week I flew across country, just a few minutes to get used to handling again, then flew several circuits and landings including two non-normal ones.
One was without landing flaps – practising in case they fail one day and another simulating engine failure. The instructor checks I can do it but also it builds my confidence.
Some of those I meet who criticise the comparison between aviation and medicine would do well to consider all that.
The other main message which fits anywhere – always have a plan B.
Like knowing I could cope with a mechanical malfunction or weather-related problems.
Much as I love flying the one thing I always do is consider what could go wrong and try to be one step ahead. I don't always succeed of course and that's when I get worried.
No, it's not paranoia it's experience and good training.
Instead of thinking only about culture, it's important to consider the climate too. That we can influence.
Culture is probably something stemming from the organisation. But climate, that's what's happening here in this room, right now.
You can influence climate at the start of the day, for example, by whether or not you smile and make eye contact.
Climate is affected by whether or not you take an interest in others not just yourself. Effective leaders are like actors. They think before they enter a room and focus on what matters not on themselves alone. A smile is the simplest act.
Icebreakers affect climate. They might not affect culture, at least in the short-term, but they can and do change the climate. That's why basic politeness and making sure everyone knows everyone's names is so crucial. It should also set an appropriate hierarchy gradient.
I recently spent some time working with critical teams in an NHS hospital north of London.
They had been working with an interim unit manager, and I was told this individual had some perfectly valid ideas. But the way they presented their ideas was very aggressive, very authoritarian, and managed to destroy morale in the team.
Everyone was left feeling hacked off. The effect was palpable.
A new manager, above this theatre manager in the hierarchy of the hospital, was appointed and got straight to work doing what I thought was an excellent thing.
First of all, they asked the clinicians and staff what they thought. They had also heard from the chief executive that members of the team were unimpressed, but they took the time to speak to individuals to understand their views.
I heard from someone else that this approach gave the new manager tremendous credibility. Engaging like this with the front-line staff, while not entirely unheard of within the NHS, is it seems , all too rare, particularly of course in dysfunctional areas.
And the front line staff all told the new manager, "We're finding it impossible to work with this manager. They've made life here very unpleasant." The services of the team manager were swiftly dispensed with.
Fortunately, they were agency staff, so this process was straightforward, and the individual responsible for the negative climate was dismissed within a couple of days. It's at this point they asked Atrainability to come in, to work on a rebuild.
It was a very pleasurable experience because there was nothing wrong with the people themselves. They weren't in any trouble for making frequent mistakes, so our role was very much to emphasise the positives.
On that note, a small but very positive thing happened while I was there.
I asked, "What makes your day go so well here?". A couple of people in this room of 30 pointed to their new theatre manager, and said, "You know, Bill has made such a difference. He's so good to work with."
I had just been talking about the difficulty people experience in accepting praise, and of course, Bill turned to them and said, "No, no, no. It's not me; it's you!", the typical response we expect to see from those who struggle to accept praise.
I didn't say a word at that point, because it could have caused Bill some embarrassment but then when we broke for tea this happened: Bill asked if he could say something to the room.
Bill turned to his colleagues and said, "I've just done exactly what Trevor said. I shrugged off your praise. What an example! I just want to say to everyone; thank you so much for saying nice things about me."
It was a fantastic learning point; unscripted, but he had just gained another level of self-awareness.
Everyone in the room appreciated it because they saw a real-world demonstration taking place right in front of them. And we all had a really good laugh, with an immediate positive change taking place to the climate in that room.
It just shows what happens when you emphasise the obvious.
This is the reinforcing that leaders of critical teams need to carry out. They need to accept praise too, and then react accordingly, being a role model for their teams.
Remember, you can have a personal impact on the climate, every day.
Inappropriate and unprofessional behaviour is cited as a problem area across many professions, and health and social care is no exception.
There are two significant aspects to consider – why do people behave inappropriately and what effect does it have?
Taking the first of those it could be just plain awkwardness in that they can get away with it, or perhaps they think it's harmless and just a stress-relief and fine if they apologise.
Could it be a lack of insight?
Shortage of emotional intelligence could be present perhaps because no one has ever told them?
Alternatively, it could be a result of illness or stress.
We know of one older person whose behaviour changed for the worse and ultimately it transpired they were suffering from an aggressive form of cancer.
The evidence is of course crucial. The excellent work of Christine Porath demonstrates the devastating damage done to performance and motivation.
Cognitive function diminishes by over 60%, and almost 40% of people on the receiving end of bullying intentionally reduce their performance.
There is however another aspect – could I be part of the problem?
Is my behaviour winding you up? That is, for some of us, a tough question.
The Atrainability training works through the root causes and helps delegates to consider their contribution either directly considering more effective behaviour or by not helping 'difficult' colleagues adapt their behaviour.
For managers, perhaps the realisation that they need to deal with the inappropriate and unprofessional behaviour is the critical message.
Learning from excellence through the practice of debriefing is a hot topic in healthcare teams. We hear this being referred to as appreciative inquiry; a model that seeks to engage stakeholders in self-determined change.
The model assumes that the questions we ask tend to focus our attention in a particular direction.
Organisations then evolve in the direction of the questions most persistently and passionately asked.
I'll often ask the healthcare professionals who attend our training courses whether they have a chat at the end of the day about how things went? "Yes, of course, we do."
But do you have this conversation in any real detail? "No, not really".
You would, we hope, if things have not gone well but how often is that? Maybe 1% of the time?
So, we don't really discuss the 99% of times when things go well. What effect does that have on morale?
At Atrainability we recommend three simple questions:
-Is there one thing that I or we do well?
-How about one thing I or we could do more of?
-Or maybe one thing I or we could do less of?
The crucial word is of course 'could'. Not 'ought' or 'should' because that is telling someone how to behave and no-one likes that. 'Could' makes it a suggestion, a nudge, if you will. Not a command.
Adult to adult conversation in practice. Thoughts offered with honesty and accepted with humility.
Naturally, people generally debrief if thing went wrong. This is good practice, far better than the alternative of sweeping the error under the rug.
But how often does it go wrong, rather than right? If we assume things go right 99% of the time, then most of the time these conversations, and any appreciative inquiry, are rarely taking place.
We want to be having these conversations. "It was really great when you pointed that out and said I was wrong. Do that again, please."
This is about reinforcing positives, which people don't do often enough.
Another challenge, especially within the healthcare profession, is that people don't accept praise. They shrug it off. "I was only doing my job".
Perhaps this is a cultural thing for us Brits, making us feel uncomfortable when someone heaps on the praise.
It's certainly a cultural issue within healthcare where we become so used to the extraordinary, it becomes ordinary.
Last summer, an extraordinary video of a nurse in the accident and emergency department at Leicester Royal Infirmary went viral on the Internet.
It showed 36-year-old nurse Caroline Clayton-Barker, along with several of her colleagues, putting herself in danger to protect patients from a man with a knife.
At one stage in the video, she comes face-to-face with the knife-man, before running to safety herself.
Despite Clayton-Barker later recounting that "It was like a horror film," she also told reporters she was just doing her job. "I don't feel brave, it's just your job, it's your duty of care to protect your patients."
In reality this was way more than 'just her job'; the lady performed exceptionally.
But on a more mundane level team members are doing great work daily but often just shrug it off.
We know that morale is low within the NHS. Staff recruitment and retention are both a huge challenge.
You can argue that working in the healthcare profession is often a thankless task. Nobody is saying thank you, and nobody is accepting the praise. This creates a vicious cycle.
If we don't accept praise, I reckon we get in the habit and don't offer praise as well.
Having the end of day conversations on the 99% of occasions where things went right, giving praise, and accepting praise, these are all excellent ways to get better and all feel better.
When things go wrong in healthcare - administering the wrong drug, treating the wrong patient, operating on the wrong site or patient - these are the mistakes we see. Sadly, avoidable harm is not decreasing and the annualised cost increasing in our litigious society. £2 billion outgoings for NHS Resolution in 2018, up from £1.7 billion the previous year.
What people often don't do is report the near misses, or near hits as we prefer to call them.
There's plenty of understandable reasons for not reporting the near hits.
Firstly, nothing has actually gone wrong. It's hard to report a near hit when it didn't result in a bad outcome for the patient.
Secondly, reporting systems tend to be very cumbersome and time-consuming; not something you would look forward to at the end of a long shift.
The boxes within these reporting systems don't always fit the scenario. When no actual harm has taken place, some of the older systems don't have a way to report the near hit from their drop-down boxes.
Another major reason healthcare professionals fail to report the near hits is because nothing tends to happen when the issue is raised. All too often, there's no reply to acknowledge the report or even say thank you.
If there is an acknowledgement, frequently nothing is seen to change. From a management point of view this can be frustrating because not all solutions can be visible. We know of a case of senior management following due process with a case of bullying but they can't publish that they put a warning on a personal file because naturally that is confidential. But staff see no change in behaviour of the culprit so don't waste time offering follow-up reports!
One more reason; when you report near hits, you don't always feel safe.
We are aware of one situation, involving a clinician working with a new colleague. They were chatting together, slightly distracted, and the new team member got the controlled drugs out in a different way.
The clinician knows they should have checked before administering the drugs, but they were distracted. They gave the wrong one of the two colourless solutions to the patient. Fortunately, there was no lasting harm to the patient, but this was a near hit.
The clinician decided to report the near hit. They were aware that the same had happened with some of their colleagues in the past. Human factors were involved, with a weakness in the drug-labelling system making the error easier to occur.
The result? After reporting the near hit, the clinician came under scrutiny from senior management. They were not thanked for raising the near hit. Instead, the management started looking into how many near hits the clinician had previously reported, comparing their frequency of reporting to management.
The irony in this is, they made the clinician who reported the near hit feel victimised. Yet management still went ahead and changed the process, to reduce the risk of the same near hit retaking place. Dishonest management in our opinion.
When I was flying jumbo jets with my former employer, there was a company policy of error reporting ethics. If you made a genuine human error and confessed it, you would not suffer any disciplinary action or consequence to your career.
If however you deliberately broke the rules or made an error then tried to hide it, you would be facing due process. And quite rightly too.
Airlines too, recognise the tip of the iceberg issue. If a near hit is reported, it's likely to be part of a much bigger problem, hiding below the surface.
The more comfortable thing for management to do is to discipline the last person involved; the nurse, doctor or pilot receives punitive action as a result.
The hard thing to do is to get to the true root cause of the issue.
Why did the person make the mistake that resulted in a near hit? Perhaps they were not adequately trained in the procedure. Indeed the process itself could be unfit for purpose. The staff member might have been working for many hours without a break. They could have been experiencing personal issues at home, with a sick or dying relative, distracting them from the task at hand. We know of one recent case where this was a major factor.
In the long term, it saves you money to take the hard option and tackle the system issue which may be indicated by the hidden mass of the iceberg, floating below the surface.
So please report near-misses or as we say regard them as near-hits. The message for managers is please encourage reporting and respond with compassion for the reporter. The bulk of the iceberg represents a threat to us all.
It is, of course, inappropriate to speculate on the possible cause of the tragic Ethiopian Airlines crash. However, the reaction offers lessons I believe.
The authorities in Ethiopia and China have grounded the same model virtually instantly until root causes are understood and appropriate measures have been taken.
It may be significant that the aircraft is the same new model as crashed in Indonesia in late 2018, or it may not. Risk management is the name of the game.
One of the contributing factors in Indonesia was the new safety feature built into the aircraft software. The concept was to improve the way the aircraft responds to an unwanted state and is supposed to be an aid.
It is called the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). It is designed to prevent the aircraft from falling out of the sky in an aerodynamic stall.
However, it appears that the manufacturer, Boeing, did not incorporate the knowledge of the system in its training to crews. Many qualified crews around the world have stated that they nothing about the system's existence.
To compound the problem, it appears that the Indonesian aircraft may have been despatched with a known technical problem which the ground engineers may not have been able to reproduce on the ground.
In other words, the safety system responded correctly, but the suspicion is that it was being fed erroneous data from a faulty sensor. In this case the AoA (angle of attack) sensor – which detects the airflow over the wings.
Some of you may be aware that a cost saving feature is that this latest model of Boeing 737 is deemed to require only 'differences' training if a crew is qualified on the earlier model. They do not do a full technical knowledge course just learn and are assessed on the differences.
It seems the new safety feature was not included. Human error by the manufacturer? The result in a non-technical sense is a loss of situation awareness – how and why the aircraft is reacting.
Those of you who remember the tragic Kegworth crash in January 1989 which started with the crew identifying the wrong engine in an unclear flight situation and ultimately crashing across the M1 motorway in England's East Midlands.
Of the 126 people aboard, 47 died, and 74 sustained serious injuries.
Implicated was the pilots not being aware that the right engine supplied the air conditioning to the flight deck as opposed to the left engine in previous models.
The smell of burning was a small misleading clue. They had only completed a very brief 'differences' course.
Airbus have also suffered accidents in the past because the aircraft was so advanced and complicated that crew struggled to understand how the plane was reacting.
History can repeat, but we learn the lessons the hard way.
I flew six different airliners from four different manufacturers in my career. Comprehending what was going on was sometimes tricky and fundamentally down to how well the crew knew the aircraft. In other words, training.
In other professions such as healthcare, we all involve people trying to comprehend what is going on.
Healthcare professionals face a much more difficult job because no two patients are the same even more so than with aircraft. Knowledge and understanding are crucial, especially in how any one of us can get it wrong and right.
Human factors has been mandatory training in aviation since 1995, and even that can't prevent everything. But it sure helps.
I've presented training packages to several NHS Boards and senior management teams. Not surprisingly cost is a feature. Some get it; some seem to struggle.
After all, finding a direct correlation between safety and training is not easy.
But precisely who initially said, "If you think training is expensive, try having an accident"? I'm not sure, but it has been attributed to many wise people over the years.
In our everyday lives, people are typically polite to each other. At social events, we carry out personal introductions a matter of course.
So why is this behaviour not the norm in healthcare?
When working with healthcare teams that are sometimes experiencing challenges with safe team workings, we often observe a reluctance to introduce ourselves by name - especially our given first name.
When I joined my first airline employer in 1971 that was indeed the case.
The Captain was always addressed as Captain or Sir, on and off the aircraft.
I still vividly remember my first BOAC flight as a very lowly second officer under training. The Captain was a very senior manager and trainer, and he exacerbated the situation by referring to me to his chums in the bar in Manhattan as 'one of those bloody cadets still wet behind the ears'. What an excellent example to set.
It was an example I chose as a model of what not to do when I finally achieved Command 18 years later.
Furthermore, I made a point of never introducing colleagues as 'my First Officer' or 'My Cabin Crew'. These are professional people in their own right and deserve all the respect associated with it.
This is an important issue because failure to use given names in the workplace can create a significant barrier to people speaking up when they have doubts about safety.
Why would any professional want to place an additional block to open communication, especially if someone's' life could be at stake?
I met one senior clinician in the last few months who looked with abject horror when I suggested they make a point of introducing themselves by first name at a pre-surgery huddle! "I really don't think I could do that", she said! Why on earth not?!
The unit in question has an appalling staff attitude survey result, a string of 'Never-Events' and 'near-misses', a high sickness rate and high staff turnover. Go figure!
The excellent Rob Hackett in Australia had the astonishingly simple idea a while back of putting name and job title on his theatre hat. This has become known as 'the theatre cap challenge'. Odd isn't it that it should even be regarded as a 'challenge'!
It's quite amusing to hear all the excuses why people can't adopt this simple practice of the theatre cap challenge in their own unit.
Infection risk? Well, there is a chap out there making them integral in theatre caps. You could invest in a few to get you through the week if you like your own personalised hat.
Power is granted, respect is earned.
We must not forget either that using titles can help in difficult situations.
As an airline captain, there were many occasions where a colleague referring to me as Captain Dale was useful to re-establish appropriate hierarchy in front of passengers or an engineer.
The other week I was delivering a talk in Bath, to a room of around 100 healthcare professionals, ranging from medical students to retired senior consultants.
When I reached the end of my talk, I asked how people in the room felt about using first names? I explained that when you have to think about titles and ranks, you are creating an additional barrier to someone helping you out when you need them the most.
I don't mind if you introduce yourself as Professor John Smith, but I prefer if you call me Professor Smith. This might not be as beneficial as working on a first names basis, but it sure beats the all too common introduction, "We all know each other don't we?" which equates to "You all know me, don't you? .. and you don't matter".
Do get in touch to discuss how our human factors training for critical teams can help you maintain and enhance safety.
Many organisations do not perform exit surveys and so understanding why people leave is a problem to start with. Perhaps they don't really want to know. It's easier to blame the NHS and pressure of work, targets etc.
For example, Atrainability worked closely with a world famous specialist hospital a little while ago which was suffering high turnover of junior nurses in a particular department.
The view from the top was:
"The nurses come here to get our good name on their CV's and then move on."
However, anecdotally people were leaving because it was not a great place to work.
Team-working was verbally espoused but reality was somewhat different. Work as imagined was quite different to work as done depending on your level in the hierarchy.
One nurse told us she had worked her entire shift without any offers of help, breaks or support while the band 6 and 7 nurses had a nice relaxing time. You can imagine the atmosphere when we presented our findings.
This is by no means unique as many of you will know.
This very week I've listened to my best friend's wife explaining that she is burned out and leaving the profession the she loves. The reasons? She is a specialist sister in intensive care who is often told to work in other departments. She has been sent to A & E, theatres, wards and even the other sites in her trust which is 20 miles away.
She has simply had enough.
What a tragedy which is personal, institutional and cultural for her and us all.
In London there are 8000 nursing vacancies and huge doctor numbers too, so making your job one that people want to come to must be worth working on?
Staff retention rather than repeated training costs is a very worthwhile investment, and turning from a Blame Culture to a Just Culture is a crucial start.
A worthwhile part of team-working is delving in to emotional intelligence and a fundamental concept within that is of course self-awareness.
Get in touch and discuss with us how we could help your teams, including the senior level of course.
Trevor Dale, Human Factors Specialist
- Civility Saves Lives
- Group GP appointments - a breeding ground for error?
- Waverley BIG Awards Finalist
- Human Factors in Practice
- Free conference this November
Civility Saves Lives
Civility when dealing with colleagues and patients may seem like stating the obvious, but sometimes what should happen in theory isn't what happens in practice.
Civility Saves Lives is the self-funded, collaborative project led by Dr Chris Turner, a Consultant in Emergency Medicine.
Why does civility matter? Uncivil behaviour not only greatly impacts the reciepent, but it is also proven to have an extended impact beyond the recipent. At Atrainability, we refer to this as 'Mood Contagion'.
Many professionals have been on the receiving end of rudeness, belittling and bullying. Most are told or feel like 'that's just the way it is'; but if the NHS truly wants a Culture Change behaviours and attitudes at all levels need to adjust. The project aims to raise awareness of what can be done, whilst sharing stories from other professionals as well as relevant, evidence based academic papers.
Atrainability's Trevor Dale has recently been speaking about the importance of civility at Patient Safety Collaborative for Kent, Surrey & Sussex. If you'd like to find out more about how Human Factors training and Civility fit hand in hand, request more information by emailing email@example.com.
We also highly reccomend taking some time to look at Christine Porath's work. Her book 'Mastering Civility - A Manifesto for the Workplace' has recieved excellent reviews in The New York Times as well as from high profile authors and leaders.
Group GP appointments - a breeding ground for error?
There has been a recent report about the NHS considering group GP appointments as an option to help alleviate the waiting time for patients and in an attempt to manage the growing shortage of GPs.
Although further details on this are needed, we at Atrainability believe that this could very well be a potential breeding ground for Human Factors error, our main concerns from a Human Factors perspective include:
• BEHAVIOUR & COMMUNICATION: The patient relationship with their GP, being confident to raise real concerns. How does the GP manage a room with some extraverted (verbose) people and some introverted (more private & more inwardly driven)?
• SITUATION AWARENESS: Potential error when adding correct patient notes to correct individual files - how will this be managed from a group sessions?
• CONFIRMATION BIAS: A group may have similar symptoms, but will this lead to the same path of care? The correct diagnosis? Could things be missed?
Are you a GP?
We'd appreciate your thoughts on the subject. Email us in confidence: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Waverley BIG Awards Finalist
You may know that we've been training health and social care teams across the UK for the last 16 years, however you may not realise that we're classified as a small business. Which is why we are delighted to have been selected as a finalist for Waverley's B.I.G Awards 2018 in the category of 'Customer Delight'. We'll keep you updated on the results which will be announced on 19 October.
Human Factors in Practice
Reminder! Free Future of Healthcare Conference this November
Atrainability are proud to be speaking alongside Roy Lilley, Cara Charles-Barks (Salisbury NHS), Dr Mohammad Al-Ubaydli, Mark Coooke (NHS England SW) & Dr Felix Jackson at The Future of Healthcare Conference, which is free to attend event on 6 November in Exeter.
The conference brings you speakers from a wide spectrum of specialties. The aim is to inspire & teach NHS staff from all departments, as well as patients, on how to adapt to systems change in a way that brings about efficiency & value. Addressing two of the fundamental themes of Future Focused Finance. Find out more here & don't forget to follow the event organisers @nhsFFF on Twitter.
As I'm writing this, it's only Wednesday, but we have already been made aware of four unrelated never-events at seperate healthcare providers. The unfortunate truth about committing to a Human Factors training programme is that many organisations put it off, until they receive a wake-up call in the form of a never-event, a near miss, bad press or from the CQC. Someone gets told this needs to be addressed, and that's when our phone starts ringing.
The first tragedy of so many harm related incidents is that on reflection they could have been avoided.
That's one of the reasons this headline in the National Health Executive: "NHS pays out record £20m compensation for brain-injured teenager" caught our attention, but also because it's potentially the largest compensation pay-out in NHS history.
The second tragedy of avoidable harm is that the suffering of all those involved doesn't end with the error.
The judgement suggests the error was avoidable. Hence Human Factors behaviours will likely have been suboptimal. In this particular case, not only did this nameless young lady have her full enjoyment of life tragically taken from her, but also her parents and entire family.
We can only imagine the emotional toll that they have endured for the last eighteen years to have this life changing error acknowledged and receive some form of compensation towards her ongoing care.
Let's also recognise the effect on the healthcare team involved. It's likely that disciplinary action would have been taken, but they have almost certainly been haunted by the knowledge that they could have avoided or trapped the error.
The third tragedy of avoidable harm, is that it sadly continues to occur.
There will always be mistakes in healthcare, but embracing a Human Factors mindset can enable your team to be confident in modifying the actions and behaviours that affect safety.
Atrainability have over 16 years' experience in training and supporting healthcare teams on their individual journeys to truly learn, become more effective and begin to change behaviours for the better. If your teams are performing highly now, consider helping them to stay 'consciously competent' and avoid the trap of complacency.
Please get in touch and let's see how we can help your teams.
The General Medical Council has reflected the importance of recognising Human Factors in the development of generic professional capabilities for post graduate medical curricula.
The context for this is the GMC's core guidance for all doctors, good medical practice, which sets out what is expected of doctors including communication, partnership and working with patients. (National Quality Board Human Factors Concordat 2013)
Many Deaneries have incorporated Atrainability's Human Factors modules in their curriculum, since 2012. The list is growing year by year and the repeat bookings speak for themselves.
Atrainability are now taking bookings for Foundation Doctors Human Factors Training for the next academic year.
Human Factors is strongly recommended to become a mandatory part of Medical Education and our courses match the Medical Leadership Competency Framework.
Focus points include:
• how and why errors are made and practical tools to avoid and trap them
• safe decision making during a stressful day
• situation awareness - recognising the signs that things are going wrong and dealing with that situation
• effective escalation - overcoming the barriers to open communication and shared understanding in a high workload environment
• dealing with difficult people including, sadly, colleagues
We have over 6 years' experience in delivering training aimed at the next generation of healthcare professionals in a manner that is tailored to their educational needs.
The Human Factors behaviours related to safety are crucial both for the patient and also the professional confidence within the Doctor while they are in the most high risk part of their education.
If you have already finalised training for 2018/2019, we'd be happy to discuss your training programme for the next academic year.
Some sample feedback from recent participants:
"Outstanding course, incredibly useful"
"This should be mandatory! Very interesting to learn how other industries such as aviation can apply to medicine"
"Leadership & management is crucial but often overlooked in medical training. Clear, practical advice that I can start putting into practice now."
"Useful to receive formal teaching in things that it seems we are expected to already be aware of e.g. challenging authority. Good presentation, kept engaged throughout."
"Important concepts to reflect on, extremely useful to be exposed to this early on in our career"
We would be happy to discuss your individual needs at your convenience. Please contact us here.
The recent press reports of a 'toxic' atmosphere at St George's hospital in South London are distressing to say the least but unfortunately by no means isolated.
Relations between colleagues in any profession can break down or face difficulties at times. However, healthcare professionals are often a keen focus for criticism in the media and so it's important not only to understand how to prevent unprofessional behaviour in the first place but also how to manage high-performing professionals into cooperative team-working when under pressure.
In over 16 years of working with health and social care professionals across a wide spectrum of disciplines we have encountered far too many instances of uncivil behaviour sometimes directed at us and certainly at fellow team members.
It is worthwhile mentioning that this applies at all levels and specialties and not as some apparently think, doctors alone. Currently we are working with organisations where problems exist within nursing bands. When trying to help teams understand the effects of uncivil behaviour we ask the following:
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HUMAN? VS WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE PROFESSIONAL?
Here are sample answers, by no means exclusive:
Maintaining high standards of professional behaviour is a major challenge in any high-pressure working environment. We will sometimes fail to get it right because we can not avoid being human.
One clinician sought to excuse his colleagues inappropriate behaviour by saying the surgery (neuro) he performed was very complex, high risk and stressful and that stress had to be vented somewhere; and so in this way he justified the bullying his colleague dished out to theatre teams!
Thankfully, this clinician always behaved impeccably with patients and relatives but there is no excuse for undue criticism or abuse of colleagues.
Why does he think it is an appropriate way to behave?
Does he realise the impact he has on staff feeling that they can speak up in the unlikely (we hope) event of some avoidable error?
How will the added stress of working with someone difficult effect the performance and focus of the rest of the team?
If you look again at the 'What makes a professional' image; what makes him believe that he is practicing in a 'professional' manner?
Everyone has what we refer to as their personal 'stress bucket'.
So in dealing with 'difficult' people, especially as a manager or team leader it can be helpful to consider why they behave this way.
Could they be ill or facing huge personal stress, having a personal crisis? Could they lack insight or skill? Could they believe it to be acceptable because that's what they experienced? Could it be my fault? Winding them up? Could they just be plain awkward?
The first step is to recognise the 'human' elements, treat everyone as an equal with dignity and compassion and by that try to encourage the 'difficult' people into the same behaviour.
This can be easier said than done, especially if you're not in a management position but one of those perhaps at the blunt end of the behaviour.
In those circumstances the simplest advice would be to reframe your response to this behaviour. For inappropriate behaviour such as bullying or intimidation, it is common for individuals to be singled out as the 'victim'.
Therefore sticking together as a team is crucial. It is certain that you are not the only one who has noticed or feel uncomfortable with the behaviour. As a collective it's important to not allow yourselves to become victims but to stand together and respond professionally, politely but firmly.
As a common example if someone refuses to follow a procedure (such a safety checklist, briefing etc) declaring it a waste of time or they know better etc. Together the team needs to take the stance "I'm afraid we will not be going forward with this until this is done."
Regardless of your faith in reporting systems there should be one that enables you to get support from your management, but any reporting with regards to inappropriate behaviour must be evidence based.
REPEATED UNCIVIL BEHAVIOUR
The NHS is notorious for having a culture where professionals are treated effectively like children. If you treat people in such a manner don't be surprised if you get a child-like response.
However if you treat people in an adult manner, as equals, with respect and understanding it is more difficult for them to maintain an unprofessional behaviour pattern.
At the same time it should be made clear that continued unprofessional behaviour and bullying cannot and will not be tolerated. This comes under the heading of duty of care to the rest of the staff. A fundamental management responsibility.
However, we know of a current situation where after evidence of repeated uncivil behaviour, a formal interview was undertaken with an official warning on file.
The staff member has returned to work, but the manager suspects no behaviour change has taken place and is not getting any further evidence from other staff because presumably they feel that nothing has been done and therefore why waste time making reports?
A conundrum indeed because managers cannot publish confidential personal reports for obvious reasons. Here we believe having a cadre of Human Factors Champions in the workplace could help.
They could be the interface in the workplace and offer advice and support to both staff and management.
So we return to a Just Culture - one where genuine human error is treated with understanding but equally failure to follow standard procedure habitually and inappropriate behaviour towards others is simply not on.
Free conference for NHS staff this November
We're proud to be speaking alongside Roy Lilley, Cara Charles-Barks (Salisbury NHS), Dr Mohammad Al-Ubaydli, Mark Coooke (NHS England SW) & Dr Felix Jackson at this free to attend event on 6 November in Exeter.
The future is uncertain. With the dawn of technology, will healthcare staff be usurped by advanced apps & artificial intelligence? What leadership strategies are in place to help NHS staff cope with the Salisbury Novichok incidents? How will joint working & mergers affect staff?
This event explores Collaborative Networking - The Future Of Healthcare. This free conference brings you speakers from a wide spectrum of specialties. We aim to inspire & teach NHS staff from all departments as well as patients on how to adapt to systems change in a way that brings about efficiency & value. Addressing two of the fundamental themes of Future Focused Finance.
Find out more here & don't forget to follow the event organisers @nhsFFF on Twitter
Fixing a System Under Pressure
Everyone seems to say now that they have a 'Learning Culture' - but what is your SOURCE of Learning?
The British Medical Association has recently shared some of the footage from The Future Vision for the NHS workshop ran last month. On the day around 50 members from across different parts of the medical profession came together to contribute ideas, experiences and examples to help inform the BMA's work to press for change in the NHS.
Watch a selection of videos from the event here, including 'Fixing a System Under Pressure' a short presentation from Atrainability.
Excellent Feedback from Serious Hazards of Transfusion Conference
We were recently sent the official feedback from the SHOT blood service conference we spoke at in July.
This year saw record numbers of delegates, which could be partly attributable to having more international delegates from the IHN meeting.
There were 270 online submissions for the evaluation survey, which was a response rate of 85.7% (the evaluation survey was sent to 315 individuals, excluding exhibitors).
Trevor Dale spoke at the conference about Walking the Tightrope.
The feedback on the conference was exceptionally positive, and we were very happy to receive top scores on most informative and best performance of the speakers.
Who's tweeting Human Factors...
One to follow: #learnnotblame is the fantastic campaign lead by Dr Cicely Cunningham launched by The Doctors Association UK, we'll definitely be following and supporting her progress as she raises important issues that's relevant to Human Factors values.
That's our round up of the updates from us for now, please get in touch and let's see how we can help your teams.
The winners of the HSJ 2018 Patient Safety Awards have been revealed. Well done to everyone who was nominated, commended or won! In particular, we'd like to congratulate the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire Trust Patient safety and risk team. Their team have been awarded the Patient Safety Team of the Year.
"Integrating Human Factors principles into our safety investigations has been a key part of the changes we have made. An understanding of these concepts is key to learning and improving as an organisation when things go wrong. We started our Human Factors journey two years ago with Atrainability and their Train the Trainers course, and this gave us the knowledge and confidence to develop a systems based investigation process that moves away from blame, towards learning and ensures that the patient is at the heart of what we do."- Stephen Tipper, Human Factors Programme Manager
Since instituting a raft of measures over the last year the incident reporting rate at the organisation has increased from 31 to 44 incidents per thousand bed days – in the top 25 per cent nationally. There have also been improvements in staff survey responses on feeling secure when raising concerns.
We of course can not take credit for their achievement but we are proud to have played a small part of their wider plan to make sustainable changes to patient safety with the 5 day Train the Trainer sessions we ran with them two years ago.
Last week we ran 2x two-day Human Factors Awareness workshops for adult and children intensive care teams at UHNM. The courses were presented by our Founder, Trevor Dale and one of our new team members, Rick Craft.
During one of the two-day sessions, our trainers had the pleasure of talking with Emma Biddulph, a Play Specialist who is featured in an article in The Guardian on 70 years of the NHS. Emma told us:
"I came not knowing what to expect, but I found this course really interesting and useful. I plan to start implementing human factors learning asap in my daily practice."Emma Biddulph, a Play Specialist
It was evident from the conference that systems thinking is the way forward and the overriding theme of the day was about looking at the bigger picture whilst ensuring we don't lose sight of the individual in the process, especially the patient. We lose sight of the individual at our peril, but more than that, the patient's peril.
When organisations want to identify specific areas to improve or show evidence that they have indeed achieved improvements, data is crucial. But data so often can mask the fact that we are of course dealing with real people.
Whilst 'live tweeting' at the conference about this very subject, a fellow tweeter commented:
And how very true that is; you need both the data combined with the human story to understand why change is needed, why something has gone wrong or particularly well and also to convince others to become advocates, sharing the learning and helping to implement what is required.
We completely support the idea of systems thinking. One of the talks that I listened to with interest was focussed on Root Cause Analysis. They talked about one particular study and what they found was the Root Cause often came back as:
"Process Not Followed".
Now, that sounds like an easy answer, but firstly, that doesn't give much to work with. That's almost as bad as pointing your finger at someone and saying, "That person didn't do it right." More details are needed to understand what is going on.
Taking a systems approach to the 'Root Cause' would take into account the bigger picture and begin to investigate WHY it wasn't followed.
Is it a training issue for the individual?
Is there something wrong with the process which means it's very difficult for front line teams to do their job and adhere to the process?
Or, could it be the person is in the wrong job?
Perhaps it's 'the process' and not the person that is the real Root Cause and it needs revisiting.
It certainly seems to be the case with a number of Surgical Safety Checklists, where it looks like the checklist itself is not fit for purpose.
We are currently working with an NHS Trust where the checklist is not fit for purpose. Investigating, observing and promoting open conversations with front line individuals is a good start for any organisation that wants to understand what they can do to make improvements.
Overall there was a strong feeling of optimism at the Clinical Human Factors Group Seminar. There are, without a doubt, more people taking an interest in Human Factors in healthcare and there is also some truly excellent and insightful work on developing solutions to changing the Culture on this…even if, at the same time, it's apparent there are still some pockets of resistance.
If you've been following us for a while you'll often see us mentioning in our blog that one of the many ways you can recognise a good team is the fact that team members will take the time to tell their colleagues when they've done something well.
On this subject then, we feel it's important to walk the talk and congratulate one of the Trusts we've been working with for a while, The Critical Care team at Royal Stoke University Hospital.
Following their previous Care Quality Commission inspection, the leadership team, with the support of the trust made the decision to embark on a transformation programme to address the issues that had been highlighted.
As a result the CQC rating of their Intensive/Critical Care unit has been changed from 'Requires Improvement' to 'Outstanding'. Read their report here.
Implementing Human Factors training combined with support for a full transformation programme has helped make this possible.
Claire Hughes, Critical Care Matron at Royal Stoke writes:
"The Critical Care Team at University Hospital of North Midlands has invested greatly in Human Factors training with the aim to have 50% of all staff trained in this topic.
Our unit has undergone a Transformation Program to bridge identified gaps between the General Provision for Intensive Care (GPIC's) guidance against a former baseline position. Specific work was required to address incidents both local and intra hospital.
Trevor Dale was able to provide an excellent foundation training schedule to address the issue and instigate 'Human Factors' as a challenge and change culture for our unit.Staff who have attended the training course are fully complimentary of the skills attributes gained from the overall experience and scenario based learning.
It is already evident that Human Factors training is positively changing everyday practices and culture amongst the many staff on our very busy critical care unit.
A recent Major Incident highlighted how significant communication and human factors was, to ensure patient safety in this complex situation. For this, we thank you Trevor and the team"
This Critical Care unit is a great example of how having the support of the leadership team and Trust when it comes to implementing positive changes through training can make a difference.
By approaching learning as an ongoing journey of development and not a tick box exercise you can make improvements that are sustainable. So congratulations to all the hard work the team has put in towards making it happen.
It's been an absolute pleasure to be part of their improvements and we are looking forward to our continuing to work with them.
Picture yourself in this situation; you're an Anaesthetist who has been called to attend to a patient who needs an emergency C-section. There's a small window to act fast and save the baby, but you notice that the patient isn't wearing an identity wristband. Would you anaesthetise?
Before we go any further, consider this similar situation before making a decision on what your course of action would be. Again, a real-life story that we've been made aware of recently.
A small boy and his mother are rushed into a busy A&E department at an NHS Trust, the boy having been mauled by a dog. The child is quickly referred to the Trauma Team and there is no doubt that they have the right child; he's covered in blood, bite marks, screaming and the mother is upset as you'd expect. They do what needs to be done, they do their jobs, clean wounds and patch him up. Afterwards, they find out he's got the wrong wristband on.
The hospital decides to deal with this error with disciplinary action against the Clinicians.
Take a step back and you can see how a small mistake like this can occur. A busy department, a small boy screaming, arms flailing about…he requires urgent medical attention and it's clear what he needs; but why go straight to disciplinary action, and if not a disciplinary then how should it be dealt with?
Treating individuals of any specialty, nursing or clinician like responsible professionals is almost guaranteed to have a much better outcome. This incident should have been approached as something to learn from, a discussion point. A team conversation in which this error is highlighted and shared. An opportunity for staff to explore all the circumstances which led to the name check being missed, to think about the likelihood that this could happen again, and then if necessary, think about steps that can reasonably be taken to avoid a repetition of this error.
Using a risk matrix can help differentiate between low frequency events with very serious untoward outcomes and those with much less serious outcomes. And of course, the risk of not taking action must also be assessed to give a balanced perspective.
Let's think again about the mother who needed an emergency C-section.
On this occasion, the Anaesthetist refused to anaesthetise the patient because of the missing wristband, which lead to a ten minute delay while they got a wristband on her. The result of this, was that the precious opportunity to get the baby out safe was missed. The child is now permanently brain damaged.
The easy thing to do is blame the Anaesthetist. He or she could have acted differently, taken a risk, broken a rule to act fast and then justified his/her actions later. Or perhaps the finger of blame points at the nurse or doctor who was responsible for making sure the patient had a wristband on?
Of course, there's other elements to muddy the waters.
What does this individual normally do? Flout rules or routinely demonstrate good practice? Do they have previous history which led to this particular decision? Were they previously involved in, or even just exposed, to a patient misidentification that resulted in serious harm?
Patient misidentification is known to contribute to errors and is a cause of patient safety incidents; including operating on the wrong patient, or performing the wrong procedure, or performing surgery / an intervention on the wrong body part (e.g., right vs. left knee replacement operation).
So what's the answer here?
It's a tragic story and an upsetting, ongoing experience for all involved. We feel however that it highlights how easy it is for leaders to unintentionally get it wrong and in doing so, stopping professionals from getting it right.
One major factor in high risk decision making has to be whether your front line team feel safe and supported. Now, what that means to us is that a management system needs to be set up and run in such a way that makes front line staff feel safe. This must be borne out in reality, as opposed to being implied and then not acted on when the time comes;
"Well of course you're safe with us, we operate a no-blame culture".
Saying it doesn't make it true.
Did the Anaesthesist feel safe?
If frontline staff feel they have to protect themselves first from disciplinary action or being struck off then that's how hospitals end up with staff who will refuse to do something that in hindsight would have been the "sensible" action. The sense of covering one's own back is a normal human reaction to a perceived threat and it is a clear signal that all is not well with the system.
If individuals and teams feel safe and supported it will reduce stress and they will feel enabled and empowered to make better decisions. This not only means better care and outcomes for patients, but also builds trust and team morale.
Join us for the our next Masterclass in London.
Atrainability are now working alongside Quality Improvement Clinic to offer a one-day Masterclass which combines Human Factors and QI Science which will be running on 25 June 2018 in London. Read more about the masterclass here or Register for the event here.