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The most important 15 minutes

DSC_0188.JPG“Did yesterday go as planned?” asks Rick Barry, RN, peering over the brim of his glasses at the small crowd tucked into the quiet, sunlit hallway.

The question from Northern Light Inland Hospital’s vice president of Nursing and Patient Care Services is attention-getting. When does anyone’s day go as planned in healthcare? But, it’s an important question. It prompts Rick’s audience of directors and leaders from the hospital’s Imaging, Environmental Services, Lab, Therapy, Pharmacy, and Cardio-Pulmonary/Infusion departments to reflect on the opportunities to make today run more smoothly for patients and staff than yesterday.

Rick is reading a series of questions from a two-page Daily Stand Up Huddle report created specifically for these daily, 15-minute leadership shift huddles that take place mornings, Monday through Friday.

“Another question we always ask at the end of the huddle is, ‘What can we do differently for the next patient walking through the door?’ adds Angela Gibbs, RN, MSN, CHC, Inland Hospital’s vice president of Quality and compliance officer, who is also at each daily huddle. Today, this question garners useful feedback from one director about a patient’s frustration over his pain management, which is likely going to help another patient he’s never met. 

Shift huddles are not new to Inland Hospital, but their approach to them has been refreshed since the new systemwide effort to standardize the way we communicate important information to both leaders and frontline staff. Topics covered in this Daily Stand Up Huddle include census numbers in their major units, quality metrics, safety concerns, medication errors, and a high-level status reports from the director of each department with the most important notes for the day.

DSC_0194.JPG“We don’t just have clinical representation, which is important,” Angela points out. These huddles include—and are regularly led by—leaders from finance, operations, and administration, including John Dalton, MBA, president of Inland Hospital. Angela says that the huddles give their team of leaders an opportunity to anticipate activity happening at the hospital outside of their units or departments, so they can support one another throughout the day. The information from this huddle is fused through each unit by those in attendance or—new to the process—via written minutes taken at the meeting, typed and emailed out to the group to keep communication clear and consistent.

Christina Gurney, PT, DPT, lead physical therapist at Northern Light Rehabilitation, is grateful for the newly added minutes. “It’s helpful because now we get a summary of the huddle and that’s great. For instance, Mr. Dalton asked me a question about our department, and I didn’t have the answer for him right then. But, my director saw the email before I had the chance to connect with her, and she addressed his question quickly.”

It’s not easy to squeeze in a meeting when you work in patient care, but participants agreed it’s always worth the time spent. “It’s huge to be able to hear from the other departments in the hospital,” Bethany Burton, RN, care manager with Inland’s Family Support Services, says emphatically as the huddle slowly disperses. “For example, I work with the therapy department often and call them a lot throughout the day. These huddles have been a huge eye-opener; understanding their workload has been helpful.”

The meeting also serves as an opportunity to quickly troubleshoot issues that inhibit the best patient care. “What’s valuable is what I’m able to get for our patients and the support from leadership,” Bethany explains. “Having time daily where I can share difficulties with transitioning patients to the level of care they need to go to, and then having that support and help is great. Leadership is always quick to say, ‘What can we do to help?’ and sometimes that’s all it takes.”

Christina says that she sees firsthand the change these huddles make to frontline staff. “I see that this information is making its way to the frontline, but I think the communication is going both ways.” She explains that the staff she works with know that if they have a safety concern, they come up to her and suggest she bring it to the next huddle. And in that respect, she adds, “I think it’s the most important 15 minutes of the day.”