‘A highlight of my career’

Vancouver | July 24, 2018
Caregivers share how being part of the Safety STOP response team has helped them develop a deeper connection to PeaceHealth’s Mission.

It was just after 3 a.m. on a Sunday in Vancouver, Washington, when Galen Banghart was awakened by his phone’s familiar ring tone.

Calls at the crack of dawn aren’t an everyday occurrence, but this one wasn’t entirely unexpected.

Galen was in the middle of his very first weekend on call as a Safety STOP responder. He is one of nearly 100 caregivers across PeaceHealth who have been trained to serve in this role — in addition to their regular job duties — since the program’s initial pilot project launch in January 2018.

Safety STOP is a process that empowers caregivers to “stop the line.” Calling a Safety STOP when there is a situation that could impact patient safety and quality of care triggers a rapid response from leadership. A nursing supervisor must respond within 10 minutes, and Safety STOP responders like Galen must make their way to the site within 90 minutes.

A sense of immediacy

Galen dressed quickly, jumped in his car, and headed to the intensive care unit at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center.

That’s when the nerves began to set in.

The hustle and bustle of a busy acute care hospital is hardly the norm for Galen. As a performance improvement specialist, he spends most of his days supporting PeaceHealth Medical Group in the implementation of Lean management systems and principles in the Vancouver clinics.

“I don’t typically work around patients,” he said. “Walking into the ICU that day as a Safety STOP responder, I felt that sense of immediacy. I could see how important the work these providers and caregivers do is — the issues they’re dealing with are a matter of life and death.”

Galen quickly slipped on his reporter’s hat. The issue: ICU clinicians providing patient care only had access to one central line tool. A central line is used to put medicines, blood products, nutrients or fluids into a patient’s blood. To provide the highest level of patient care, the full kit should have been available.

Galen hit the ground running and, in collaboration with the administrator on call and the house supervisor, he conducted interviews with physicians, nurses and other caregivers — capturing important details about the circumstances that led to the Safety STOP call.

“My concerns and nervousness came and went in a matter of about five minutes,” he said. “I really tried to focus on the quality of information I was getting.”

It’s all about protecting the patient and caregivers

Meticulous information gathering is the name of the game for PeaceHealth’s Safety STOP responders.

Peggi Jenkins, a Vancouver-based performance improvement specialist, was tapped for her first Safety STOP call in April. This new process, she explained, opens up the opportunity to take a critical, thoughtful look at the procedures and protocols that are being used.

“Nobody wants to make a mistake,” Peggi said. “I’m not there to try to find blame. Safety STOP is about finding out how the process has broken down, what might be the barriers to doing the work, and how we can best protect the patient and the caregivers moving forward.”

Once the information is gathered, the Safety STOP responder’s job is done. The baton is passed to leaders who determine the next steps, which could include a root cause analysis and an action plan.

For Galen, being part of the Safety STOP team has given him a renewed sense of purpose when it comes to his work. It has deepened his own connection to PeaceHealth’s Mission to relieve pain and suffering.

“It was a humbling experience, to say the least,” Galen said. “I realized that there was nothing I could have been doing that weekend when I was on call that was more important than being part of that Safety STOP. It has truly been one of the highlights of my career.”