Working safely


I’ve been writing a lot of long blogs lately – here’s one for those that want it short and sweet!

  • Safety is not a task, a set of interventions – it is a mind-set where people are doing their best to work safely
  • Working safely is all about people, relationships and conversations
  • The reality is that working in healthcare is ‘organised chaos’ with everyday people adjusting what they do to the conditions they work in and making difficult decisions every day
  • Not all tasks can be described in detail – the real world is all about adapting not adhering to unworkable manuals
  • People are disconnected by silo working, professional tribes and processes that keep people separate – we need to create ways in which we can connect these people up – in the words of Jo Cox we have ‘more in common with each other than that which divides us’
  • People are confused and conflicted by the endless top down directives, layer upon layer on the ones before generated from outside and within their organisation
  • Implementation is an after thought – it is in fact a science and requires time, skills and effort

What can we all do differently?

  • help people to stop and take time for themselves
  • encourage people to stop doing stuff that doesn’t work or doesn’t add value
  • be consistent in your response when things go wrong
  • role model the behaviours you want to see – kindness, civility, respect, humility and positivity
  • engender a spirit of positive inquiry in work
  • help people create relationships and have conversations that break down barriers, cut across the vertical walls and create new insights
  • help people with the confidence and skills to solve problems together
  • listen to people so that they can talk without being judged – pay attention to what they are saying
  • narrow the gap between ‘work as imagined’ and ‘work as done’ – from what people think others are or should be doing to learning about what they are actually doing and what they actually can do
  • avoid short term answers to long term problems
  • think about purpose before everything… what is the purpose of this meeting? what is the purpose of this intervention? what is the purpose of this task?- if you cant answer then don’t start until you know

Relevant books and websites

  • Dave’s Subs: A novel story about workplace accountability – David Marx
  • Turning to one another – Margaret Wheatley
  • This is Going to Hurt – Adam Kay
  • Your life in my hands – Rachel Clarke
  • Humble Inquiry – Edgar H Schein
  • Relational change – Liz Wiggins and Harriet Hunter
  • Human Factors and Ergonomics in Practice – Steve Shorrock and Claire Williams Eds
  • Team of Teams – General Stanley McChrystal
  • Black Box Thinking – Matthew Syed
  • Safey-I and Safety-II – Erik Hollnagel
  • Rethinking Patient Safety – Suzette Woodward
  • When breath becomes air – Paul Kalanithi
  • Reinventing organizations – Frederic La Loux
  • The (honest) truth about dishonesty – Dan Ariely
  • Do No Harm – Henry Marsh
  • The Checklist – Atul Gawande



The Author

I am Suzette Woodward - I am a PICU nurse and have studied safety at a national level for over 20 years and have loved every second of it. I have a doctorate in Patient Safety. Thank you for reading my blog.