Gary Courneyea
Gary Courneyea, a porter at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, demonstrates one of the new transfer boards (Photo: UHN)

Staff and patients at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre are working together to create a safer environment.

Two recent examples – hallway mirrors and transfer boards – from the Leukemia program demon­strate how change starts when team members, including patients, take responsibility for safety in their area.

Hallway Mirrors

Congestion can be as much of an issue inside Toronto hospitals as it is outside them. Stretchers, nurses, wheel­chairs and patients are all moving through the narrow hallways at the Princess Margaret, creating conditions for colli­sions at the corners where hallways intersect.

"I walk around the unit for exercise and when I was on the 14th floor they had mirrors on the ceiling so you could see if anyone was coming around the corner," says Kathie Atcheson, a patient. "When I moved up to the 15th floor they didn't have the mirrors and holy cow, there are a lot more corners.

"I had seen the safety huddle board in the hallway and after a close call with another patient pushing an IV pole, I told my nurse that the mirrors might be a good idea to improve safety," Kathie says. "They put them up really quickly."

Susan Coffey, a registered nurse at the Princess Margaret, raised the concern at the team's daily safety huddle.

"We look at the same thing for a long time but patients have fresh eyes, they see things we don't," says Susan.

After nearly two months at the Princess Margaret, Kathie is happy to have returned home, but she's glad that by speaking up she was able to leave the hospital a safer place than she found it, for patients and staff.

Transfer boards

Of course, not all patients are mobile. Some need assis­tance moving from stretcher to bed. Staff use what's called a transfer board for this purpose. The board is essentially a bridge between the stretcher and the bed, staff slide patients across the board to minimize discomfort and prevent injury for everyone.

The boards had become worn, torn and were starting to crack. Gary Courneyea a porter at the Princess Margaret, brought the issue up with Unit Manager Bee-Jay Realubit to see if something could be done.

"As a leader part of my job is making sure staff have the tools they need to do their work," says Bee-Jay. "When people voice concerns, I take that very seriously and the best way for me to validate their concerns is by taking action."

"Bee-Jay asked me to speak with my manager as well, but the response I got was basically 'yes, absolutely,'" says Gary. "They asked for our input on which new boards to order and ended up choosing the one recommended by my colleague James Townsend."

The new boards are in place on Bee-Jay's unit. They have a special covering that rolls around the board, reducing the pushing and pulling required, and also reducing the chance of an injury to staff when they are transferring patients.

"I do five or 10 of these transfers every day and the new boards require much less force to move the patient," says Gary. "It makes the job immensely easier for us and it's more comfortable for the patients."

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