Huddling for Patient Safety

During the daily safety huddles at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center in Jasper, staff follow up on events, celebrate good catches, identify potential concerns, and discuss patient experience issues.


Talking about patient safety doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out affair. As Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center in Jasper can attest, brief safety huddles can enhance teamwork, promote more effective communication, and foster a culture of safety.

In the fall of 2015, Memorial Hospital established an interdisciplinary 90-day team to develop a strategy for implementing safety huddles at the facility. Over the next few months, the team researched best practices, high-reliability organizations, and Baldrige Award-winning facilities and created a detailed plan outlining processes and procedures for implementation.

The daily safety huddles launched in January 2016. Every day at 10:30 a.m., leaders from 30 departments and members of the executive team come together to discuss any safety concerns from the last 24 hours and any anticipated safety concerns over the next 24 hours. Leaders at clinics and offices based outside the hospital can call in to report their events and learn the status of events at the main campus. These meetings use a standardized agenda and last approximately five minutes. Notes are posted on the hospital’s intranet within two hours.

On average, seven events are reported at each daily huddle. Each month, the total number of reported events is shared with all hospital staff through a newsletter.

“The huddles have contributed positively to our overall safety culture,” said Denise Kaetzel, RN, director of quality services. “Leaders and staff are demonstrating more situational awareness and report proactive interventions at the huddle.”

The team also designed a scope and severity grid for any event reported during the safety huddles. This allows staff to quickly develop a plan of action and timeline for addressing the event. Events range from Level 1 (least severe) to Level 4 (most severe).

“We experienced 20 Level 4 events in 2016, the year we began the safety huddles,” Kaetzel said. “In 2017, we experienced zero.”