ARU Safety Officer Toothless But Effective Discussion Reply

please respond to John.

Part I – 

Hello everyone! John Wallace here. From the great state of North Carolina, originally. Did 24 years in the Coast Guard, so I’ve been all over. Currently, I’m a Safety Officer at a major hospital in Tennesse, and while I do all things a Safety Officer normally does, my main function is to oversee the fire safety program, which basically entails doing over 135 fire drills per year. Down the road from this degree, I want to stay in hospital safety, just at a higher level.

Part II – 

The most effective organizational setup for the safety function, in my opinion, is for it to be its own animal, so to speak. At my hospital, the Office of Clinical and Research Safety (OCRS) is an entity unto itself for good reason. In a culture of regulation like healthcare, with The Joint Commision, CAP, laws and rules governing animal research, and a hundred other regulatory bodies at play in the hospital, it’s useful in our case to be apart from all that. Our only stake is in the safe operation of clinical and research functions. This comes at a price, however, in that OCRS lacks teeth of its own to bite if a department is operating outside of safety practices. Because of that, genuine relationship building is critical between departmental leaders. In an advisory role, and with the appropriate level of buy-in, OCRS has been effective at rattling the right cages to get policy and practices changed.

I think it’s important to discuss why the major “con” of the toothless safety officer (me) is also the biggest “pro.” Because most of the hospital staff are aware I hold no power over them, they do feel comfortable enough around me to tell me if something is out of alignment with safety practices. Fear of reporting is probably one of the most dangerous phenomena that happens in a hospital setting, so having a non-authority figure to tell about an issue can be invaluable.


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