Staying safe by saying stop

1 month ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — We are all familiar with the concept of stop signs when we are driving or stopping to look both ways before crossing the street. However, this concept of stopping for safety isn’t limited to the roads. Other industries and the military have used “stop” processes to manage problems experienced by their teams. Northern Light AR Gould Hospital and other healthcare entities are now using this tool to pivot quickly when providing care.

“Any member of the staff or provider team can call for a Safety Stop if something looks or feels wrong. It’s a chance to stop immediately and troubleshoot the concern or discuss the concern with a subject matter expert to make the next step a safe one,” explains Tracy Whitten, RN, risk management specialist at the hospital.

AR Gould began the program two years ago. During the first year, staff were getting used to the concept and process, which limited the number of stops called. Now that the process and expectations are more established, the hospital has averaged one to two safety stops a month so far in 2024. 

“This is a good thing,” says Whitten. “We want people to be confident in saying ‘STOP.’ We would much rather deal with a safety stop than see a patient or staff member potentially have harm come to them.”

So, what kinds of things have resulted in a safety stop? Although there have been numerous circumstances, it oftentimes has been tied to technology not working correctly, such as an ID bracelet not scanning or a telephone not connecting. The most recent safety stop involved problems with a printer in a patient care area; these printers provide important information for our team and our patients, particularly regarding discharge instructions and education. 

“By stopping right away to troubleshoot the problem, we avoid bigger issues,” says Whitten. “Once a safety stop happens in one area, it also gives us the chance to analyze similar circumstances in other areas to improve safety throughout the organization.” 

Safety Stops are just one of many initiatives that the hospital has undertaken as it works to provide safe, quality care to patients, while also protecting the safety of those working at the facility.