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Joy of Work and Safe Patient Care

by Evan M. Benjamin, MD | May 31, 2013

This month I had the opportunity to attend the 15th anniversary of the Massachusetts Coalition for the Prevention of Medical Errors. The Coalition was created to improve patient safety through transparency and the understanding of a systems‐oriented approach to healthcare delivery. Lucian Leape, MD, who many consider to be the father of the patient safety movement, was the featured speaker at the celebration and he shared a novel concept of how to improve patient safety: create joy in the workforce.

As healthcare providers, we are fortunate to be able to come to work each day with the goal of helping people. We are privileged to enter the lives of our patients to facilitate healing and to relieve suffering. In general, research tells us that healthcare workers have a higher level of job satisfaction than other workers. This may be explained by the underlying motives that initially compel people to seek a career in healthcare. The fulfillment that comes from helping others often is rewarding enough to maintain some level of engagement. Yet true joy in the workforce needs to be nurtured. Baystate Health recognizes the importance of employee engagement as a means to becoming a true patient‐centered delivery system.

Dr. Leape noted that there is a link between employee engagement and patient safety. Employees need to feel that the organization they work for is committed to employee and patient safety. He outlined seven strategies that organizations can implement to create joy and meaning in the workplace which leads to improved patient safety. 

  1. Promote core values of mutual respect, transparency of safety events for patients and workers, and accountability for these values.
  2. Adopt an explicit aim to eliminate harm to patients and the workforce.
  3. Commit to creating a highly reliable organization that has a preoccupation with failure and employs concepts of high reliability to its processes. 
  4. Create a learning and improvement system by sharing performance reports and by teaching staff to understand data. Collect and analyze data and establish performance metrics for improvement. 
  5. Regularly recognize and celebrate work accomplishments. 
  6. Support research and quality improvement to reduce harm to patient and the workforce.

This past month, Baystate Medical Center (BMC) was mentioned in two national magazines highlighting BMC as one of the top 10 safest Academic Medical Centers in the country, and as one of 60 hospitals nationally recognized for our work in patient safety. This recognition is a testament to everyone who provides safe medical care. Whether you actively participate on one of our patient safety teams or work in our simulation lab, or by just following our recommendations for safe care, such as using time outs, check lists and protocols, you are contributing to patient safety.

Baystate Health is on the journey toward becoming a highly reliable organization. We are on the path to improving employee engagement, fostering teamwork and demonstrating transparency of our care, yet there is more we can do to foster joy in our work and to increase patient safety. To learn more about the Leape strategies, please select this link:

Please let me know what you think about how we can improve joy in the workplace and how the Leape strategies work at Baystate Health. I welcome your comments and suggestions at We’ve joined the conversation on Twitter; find this newsletter and other great content @Baystate_Health.

Issue #18 May 2013