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A campaign woven into the fabric of patient safety
Jan 01, 2016, By: Chris Power, BSN, MHSA, CHE

For more than a decade, the last week in October has been all about patient safety in Canadian health care. Thousands of health-care providers from across our country celebrate collective advances in safe care and renew their passion and enthusiasm for what they do. Of all the celebrations that were held during Canadian Patient Safety Week in 2015, few could match the excitement generated by everyone involved in the Safer Healthcare Now! campaign.

On Oct. 28., Day 1 of Canada’s Virtual Forum on Patient Safety and Quality Improvement, the past, the present and, most importantly, the future of Safer Healthcare Now! were the focus. What began in 2005 as a grassroots initiative to improve patient safety on the front lines of care has since morphed into a massive campaign bringing together health-care providers supported by experts to implement, measure and improve care delivery in hospitals, long-term care facilities and home care settings. These teams are using Safer Healthcare Now! interventions — a series of reliable, tested and practical tools addressing such areas as surgical safety, medication safety, falls prevention, and infection prevention and control.

Safer Healthcare Now! is tightly woven into the fabric of patient safety in Canada. However, in spite of its success, the truth is that it has not driven the large scale, system-wide improvements that we thought we’d see. This raises the question, what more needs to be done?

We now know that the bottom-up approach to quality improvement and patient safety, while a revolutionary concept 10 years ago, is not sufficient on its own to sustain measurable change over time and that ongoing support is required from organizational leaders. We also recognize that patients and families must be positioned as full partners in care.

In an effort to revitalize Safer Healthcare Now! we conducted an exhaustive consultation process last year with our users to better understand their needs. Their feedback made one thing crystal clear: transformational change does not happen without culture change. Front-line engagement is a must, but it is no longer enough.

The culture in health care is in need of repair. We must improve communication between care providers and patients, ensure that patients and families feel comfortable about speaking up, and task leaders with giving their care providers the support they require.

In the coming months, we will be building a Safer Healthcare Now! that is patient-centric, easier to access, customizable and inclusive of the perspectives of patients, family members, care providers and health-care leaders. It will focus on the fundamentals and behavioural interventions that promote more supportive environments for delivery of care. We want to stay true to the practice-level improvements Safer Healthcare Now! is known for but also offer teams the opportunity to apply learnings together. In the words of Henry Ford, “coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

Between now and when we launch later this year, nurses and other care providers will be informed of a number of ways they can get involved and help shape the future of this campaign. E-mail us at, and we’ll be sure to keep you in the loop. Together, we can ensure we’ll be having many more Safer Healthcare Now! celebrations down the road.

Chris Power, BSN, MHSA, CHE, is chief executive officer, Canadian Patient Safety Institute.