With safety, there IS an “I” in team – Individual accountability

Nurse and patient safety is critically important to all clinical leaders. Yet, safety practices frequently result from policies that are created when it's too late – after a preventable event has occurred.

The first step to proactively creating a positive safety culture is to admit that there is an "I" in team. Individual accountability can enhance nurse and patient safety in three ways: personal responsibility, ownership, and continuous learning.

Renowned leadership expert, Marshall Goldsmith, states that companies spend more than ever ($10 billion!) on employee engagement, yet engagement continues to decline. He argues that we have the famous John F. Kennedy statement backward when it comes engagement. We ask what the company can do for us, instead of what we can do for our company!

Goldsmith argues this reversed thinking is faulty when it comes to creating a culture of accountability, engagement, and ultimately, safety. In healthcare, we can ask ourselves, "What can I do to improve safety on my unit?"

Here are three answers:
Personal Accountability: As is relates to a culture of safety, personal accountability is a mindset that the individual has influence over the policies and procedures that impact nurse and patient safety. Then, the individual must speak up to help create change that will positively affect safety for clinician and patient. Powerful results can emanate from the belief that "I" have the power to speak up and create a safer environment for myself, the team, and the patient.

Ownership: This core behavior leads to a highly accountable environment. The accountable "I" in team behavior focuses on themselves by asking questions such as, "What could I have done differently to avoid an error? How could I better communicate about it to my unit? What did I miss that I'll pay more attention to next time?" Ownership and communication of findings create a positive learning environment. As individuals hold themselves responsible when things don't go as planned, and then make sure lessons are learned, significant improvements in team morale, engagement, and performance can be achieved.

Continuous learning: This benefit to the individual, the team and the organization can be realized through the mindset of personal accountability and ownership. If you're a member of a strong team of "I" players who value personal accountability and ownership, you know the rewarding experience of not feeling the constant finger pointing. Instead, you can count on colleagues to reflect mindfully on their own actions and results and share what they've learned for the greater good of the unit and the organization. Consistently sharing lessons learned among a team is vital to improving safety for patients and clinicians.

How do leaders coach a strong "I" mindset to build stronger teams? It's done by instilling the knowledge that personal accountability, ownership and continuous learning are requisite for a positive, rewarding and satisfying work environment. A strong "I" believes that while he or she may not always be able to control circumstances, they can control their choice in response. Highly accountable and happy team members know they can choose a triple-aim response: what's best for themselves, the company, and the patient.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.​

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