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Air Force showcases medical safety campaigns at national conference

Col. Michele Shelton, U.S. Air Force Medical Service Trusted Care lead, stands next to a poster showcasing the effects of their three most recent campaigns at the National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing and Media in Atlanta, Georgia, August 14, 2019. The poster presentation highlighted the impact their three campaigns - What’s Your Why, How Do You C.A.R.E., and Trusted Care Heroes – have had on Airmen behavior and, ultimately, patient outcomes. (Courtesy photo)

Col. Michele Shelton, U.S. Air Force Medical Service Trusted Care lead, stands next to a poster showcasing the effects of their three most recent campaigns at the National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing and Media in Atlanta, Georgia, August 14, 2019. The poster presentation highlighted the impact their three campaigns - What’s Your Why, How Do You C.A.R.E., and Trusted Care Heroes – have had on Airmen behavior and, ultimately, patient outcomes. (Courtesy photo)

FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- The U.S. Air Force highlighted three campaigns aimed at fostering a culture of safety and improving patient care and outcomes at the National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing and Media in Atlanta, Georgia, August.

Col. Michele Shelton, special assistant to the Air Force Surgeon General for Trusted Care, presented at the conference, explaining the ways Trusted Care culture and concepts have been communicated to medical service Airmen since 2015. The three campaigns were implemented in 2017 to reinforce the AFMS’s Trusted Care culture – What’s Your Why?, How Do You C.A.R.E.?, and Trusted Care Heroes.

Trusted Care is what the Air Force Medical Service has termed their high reliability health care organization activities. Specifically, the AFMS has been building and improving on a culture that produces better patient outcomes by delivering safe, patient-centered care. Trusted care was built on research and leading best practices found in the civilian sector to improve the AFMS’s focus on achieving highly reliable, safe patient-centered care. To shape the Trusted Care culture, the AFMS adopted and implemented nine core Trusted Care principles such as “Respect for People”, “Duty to Speak Up”, “Every Airman, Every Day, a Problem Solve”, and “Maximize Value to the Patient.”

“All principles are vital to supporting our Trusted Care culture, but we have noted “Respect for People” has had the most impact on the culture because we are a military, hierarchal organization,” said Shelton. “This principle, along with the others, have facilitated in overcoming barriers.”

Read more: Trusted Care Vision

Each of the Trusted Care campaigns works to promote and standardize Trusted Care principles and behaviors among medical service Airmen at all levels.

The three campaigns employed storytelling and recognition techniques to illustrate how Trusted Care principles can be incorporated into Airmen’s day-to-day responsibilities, and help the AFMS move towards high reliability. The Trusted Care campaigns were implemented throughout the AFMS and analyzed to understand their impact in improving behaviors and fostering a culture of safety:

What’s Your Why?

The “What’s Your Why?” campaign started in August 2017 to raise awareness about Trusted Care and inspire Airmen to share their personal stories by explaining what drives them to be committed to the Trusted Care culture. Participants submitted videos to the Trusted Care office.

The winner of the 2017 “What’s Your Why?” campaign was the 15th Medical Group at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. Focusing on the Trusted Care principle of “Respect for People,” Airmen in various positions from medic and to biomedical equipment technician discussed how this principle drives their dedication to delivering safe, high quality patient care. Watch their video here.

To understand the campaign’s effects, the Trusted Care team collected feedback through a post-campaign survey sent to medical service Airmen. They found that 71% of those surveyed believed the campaign increased their knowledge of Trusted Care principles, and 85% were willing to share their Trusted Care story with others.

Read more: AF Medical Service asks “What’s your Why?”

How Do You C.A.R.E.?

This campaign, which began in August 2018, was a contest that worked to enforce the AFMS Safety Behavior and Error Prevention toolbox. The C.A.R.E. behaviors/toolbox represents Clear Communication, Attention to Detail, Respectful Teamwork, Exercise a Questioning Attitude. These C.A.R.E. tools serve as the foundational behaviors of a high reliability organization. Medical service Airmen use these tools every day to ensure Trusted Care and patient safety principles are recognized and used throughout the military treatment facility. This campaign involved passing out badge cards, toolkits, and hosting a social media video and essay contest to ensure everyone understood and included the use of the C.A.R.E. tools daily.

For the essay contest, Airmen submitted specific examples of how the tools were used to improve safety and patient care. For example, one Airman discussed the importance of “Attention to Detail” in catching and fixing an error in a patient’s medical record before it could have had any impact on care.

Related content: How Do You C.A.R.E. Trusted Care Campaign 2018

Trusted Care Heroes

The Trusted Care Heroes campaign recognizes medical service Airmen who effectively apply the Trusted Care principles and embody the Trusted Care culture. The Trusted Care Heroes can be individuals or groups, and include accomplishments that range from developing programs using the Trusted Care principle of “Systems Thinking” to saving the life of a patient through “Duty to Speak Up.”

Each month, nominees are selected as the Trusted Care Hero of the month. These “Heroes” are featured on social media platforms, as well as recognized during the AFMS Council meeting led by the Air Force Deputy Surgeon General. Here they have an opportunity to highlight and discuss the actions that made them a Trusted Care Hero.

“A Trusted Care Hero is someone who adopts, applies and models the Trusted Care principles, behaviors and tools to prevent harm from reaching our patients and staff,” said Shelton. “For example, by demonstrating the safety behavior, “Attention to Detail,” a Senior Airman from Joint Base-McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, was able to identify a temperature discrepancy on a shipment of vaccines. By demonstrating “Respect for People,” he coordinated with the case management team and field support to fix the issue. Not only did he prevent potential harm, he also served as a role model for Trusted Care, showing the connection between employing these practices and creating a safer environment of care.”

Since 2015, the Trusted Care team has recognized more than 800 Trusted Care Heroes.

Related content: Trusted Care Heroes Facebook album

The AFMS has seen overall improvement in safety, productivity, staff health and satisfaction, which all positively impacts patient care.

“Since the inception of Trusted Care, the AFMS has seen a decrease in serious safety events by an average of 17 per year,” said Shelton.

These three campaigns facilitated the embodiment of the Trusted care culture on Airmen working in a clinical or non-clinical environment. It helped them see the impact Trusted Care has on their work environment.

“As a former Chief Nurse, I recognized the impact of the Trusted Care culture,” said Shelton. “In a rigid military environment, I sensed that medical service Airmen felt more empowered to speak up and voice their concerns with regards to patient safety, as well as patient experience. These initiatives allow medical service Airmen to showcase how every Airman plays a role in the culture of safety.”

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