If you see something, say something….. PLEASE!


As I have traveled by rail and air this summer I have noticed more signs, reminding me “If you see something, say something”.   What would I do if I saw an unattended package?  Who do I report my concern to?   How much time will it take?  What if I speak up and the package is nothing?   Will I be made to feel like a fool for speaking up?

There are so many barriers to speaking up when you suspect something may not be right, so maybe you just don’t bother. Is that our problem in Healthcare?

Creating a culture in which individuals are free to report concerns before they turn into big problems is an integral component of a “Culture of Safety”.  Finding the recipe for the secret “culture of safety” sauce is the goal of transformational leaders because they know “culture eats strategy for breakfast” (Peter Drucker).  If you get the culture right, the rest falls into place.  Performance improves as individuals feel secure enough to put their neck on the line to contribute more than the status quo.

But, the status quo can be scary and hard to change.  The status quo may keep a nurse silent instead of questioning an unclear patient care order! It may stop a co-worker from calling out a break in sterile technique that could lead to a surgical infection!   The status quo may keep a technician from reporting an equipment malfunction that could lead to patient harm if it occurs again.

In healthcare, we are 30 years behind the aviation industry in creating a culture of safety that encourages all levels of employees to speak up about a concern  then accepts the concern and proactively responds to the concern.  By focusing on healthy team communication for the past 30 years, aviation has produced an extraordinary safety records.

In healthcare, our multi-disciplinary, hierarchical teams make establishing a culture of speaking up a challenge.  But, we know creating an environment of Psychological Safety where people can speak the truth without fear of retribution is what we want.

Are you ready to take your organization, department or team to the next level of safety culture and team communication to accelerate your safety performance?  Here are a few questions to get you started in identifying your gaps in order to create your high performing safety culture:

  • Does your staff speak up honestly about vulnerabilities, stress and obstacles or are you blindsided with the information when it is too late to make course corrections?
  • Do you have structured communication processes for staff to utilize to voice concerns and escalate it if needed?
  • Do you have a process to proactively gather concerns from staff?

Do you see an opportunity to promote a culture that embraces speaking up? Now is the time to take advantage of all the tools and resources available to get your team or your organization moving in the right direction.

If we all work together, we can make healthcare better.

Thanks for reading!