Most references to "leadership" and "learning" as sources of quality improvement in medical care reflect an implicit commitment to the decision technology of "clinical judgement". All attempts to sustain this waning decision technology by clinical guidelines, care pathways, "evidence based practice", problem based curricula, and other stratagems only increase the gap between what is expected of doctors in today's clinical situation and what is humanly possible, hence the morale, stress, and health problems they are increasingly experiencing. Clinical guidance programmes based on decision analysis represent the coming decision technology, and proactive adaptation will produce independent doctors who can deliver excellent evidence based and preference driven care while concentrating on the human aspects of the therapeutic relation, having been relieved of the unbearable burdens of knowledge and information processing currently laid on them. History is full of examples of the incumbents of dominant technologies preferring to die than to adapt, and medicine needs both learning and leadership if it is to avoid repeating this mistake.
Key Words: decision technology; clinical guidance programmes; decision analysis
A postal questionnaire survey of 10 022 staff nurses in 32 hospitals in England was undertaken to explore the relationship between interdisciplinary teamwork and nurse autonomy on patient and nurse outcomes and nurse assessed quality of care. The key variables of nursing autonomy, control over resources, relationship with doctors, emotional exhaustion, and decision making were found to correlate with one another as well as having a relationship with nurse assessed quality of care and nurse satisfaction. Nursing autonomy was positively correlated with better perceptions of the quality of care delivered and higher levels of job satisfaction. Analysis of team working by job characteristics showed a small but significant difference in the level of teamwork between full time and part time nurses. No significant differences were found by type of contract (permanent v short term), speciality of ward/unit, shift length, or job title. Nurses with higher teamwork scores were significantly more likely to be satisfied with their jobs, planned to stay in them, and had lower burnout scores. Higher teamwork scores were associated with higher levels of nurse assessed quality of care, perceived quality improvement over the last year, and confidence that patients could manage their care when discharged. Nurses with higher teamwork scores also exhibited higher levels of autonomy and were more involved in decision making. A strong association was found between teamwork and autonomy; this interaction suggests synergy rather than conflict. Organisations should therefore be encouraged to promote nurse autonomy without fearing that it might undermine teamwork.
Key Words: teamwork; nursing autonomy; interprofessional working; quality of care
If professionals are to be equipped better to meet the needs of modern health care systems and the standards of practice required, significant educational change is still required. Educational change requires leadership, and lack of educational leadership may have impeded change in the past. In practical terms standards refer to outcomes, and thus an outcome based approach to clinical education is advocated as the one most likely to provide an appropriate framework for organisational and system change. The provision of explicit statements of learning intent, an educational process enabling acquisition and demonstration of these, and criteria for ensuring their achievement are the key features of such a framework. The derivation of an appropriate outcome set should emphasise what the learners will be able to do following the learning experience, how they will subsequently approach these tasks, and what, as a professional, they will bring to their practice. Once defined, the learning outcomes should determine, in turn, the nature of the learning experience enabling their achievement and the assessment processes to certify that they have been met. Provision of the necessary educational environment requires an understanding of the close interrelationship between learning style, learning theory, and methods whereby active and deep learning may be fostered. If desired change is to prevail, a conducive educational culture which values learning as well as evaluation, review, and enhancement must be engendered. It is the responsibility of all who teach to foster such an environment and culture, for all practitioners involved in health care have a leadership role in education.
Quality in Health Care(Quality in Health Care 2001;10(Suppl II):ii38–ii45)
Key Words: leadership; learning; outcome based education
Improvements in patient safety result primarily from organisational and individual learning. This paper discusses the learning that can take place within organisations and the cultural change necessary to encourage it. It focuses on teams and team leaders as potentially powerful forces for bringing about the management of patient safety and better quality of care.
Key Words: patient safety; teamwork; learning
The National Health Service in England and Wales has recently adopted a policy aimed at embedding continuous quality improvement (CQI) at all levels and across all services. The key goal is to achieve changes in practice which improve patient outcomes. This paper describes the use of a training course for multiprofessional groups of participants tailored to offer them relevant knowledge, management and team working skills, and approaches to personal and career development. These were intended to assist them in changing their practice for the benefit of patients. The participants rated the course highly in fulfilling its objectives. One cohort followed up for 6 months named changes in practice which related specifically to learning from the course. This paper shows the important contribution of multiprofessional learning to CQI and presents a useful method of evaluating links between learning and performance.
Key Words: continuous quality improvement; clinical governance; multiprofessional learning; performance
Leadership, whether it is nursing, medical or healthcare leadership, is about knowing how to make visions become reality. The vision that many nurses hold dear to their hearts is one where patients are treated with dignity and respect at all times; where systems are designed for the benefit of individual needs; and where the work performed by nurses and other carers is valued and respected. Achieving such a vision will require a paradigm shift in the philosophy, priorities, policies, and power relationships of the health service. Fundamentally, it will require the rhetoric of patient centred care to become a reality. The following scenario is set in the UK in the year 2012 and describes a health service that is on the pathway to achieving this vision. It tells the story from a nursing perspective and outlines the three key foundation stones that helped nursing achieve the vision of a patient centred health service: (1) development of patient centred care measures as part of performance management and the clinical governance agenda; (2) leadership based on personal growth and development principles; (3) new clinical career and competency framework for nursing.
Key Words: nursing leadership; patient centred care; career framework
The agenda for health care in developed countries in the 21st century will be dominated by a vision of quality which seeks to address the deep seated problems of the past. The ability to deliver safe, effective, high quality care within organisations with the right cultures, the best systems, and the most highly skilled and motivated work forces will be the key to meeting this challenge. This is an issue which should be a priority for education and training bodies. The need for health services to give priority to developing health professionals equipped to practise in a new way and thrive in new organisational environments requires a rapid response to reshape curricula and training programmes. Developing leadership and management skills will be essential in achieving this transformation in the quality of care delivered to patients.
Key Words: leadership; management; patient safety
Educating healthcare professionals is a key issue in the provision of quality healthcare services, and interprofessional education (IPE) has been proposed as a means of meeting this challenge. Evidence that collaborative working can be essential for good clinical outcomes underpins the real need to find out how best to develop a work force that can work together effectively. We identify barriers to mounting successful IPE programmes, report on recent educational initiatives that have aimed to develop collaborative working, and discuss the lessons learned. To develop education strategies that really prepare learners to collaborate we must: agree on the goals of IPE, identify effective methods of delivery, establish what should be learned when, attend to the needs of educators and clinicians regarding their own competence in interprofessional work, and advance our knowledge by robust evaluation using both qualitative and quantitative approaches. We must ensure that our education strategies allow students to recognise, value, and engage with the difference arising from the practice of a range of health professionals. This means tackling some long held assumptions about education and identifying where it fosters norms and attitudes that interfere with collaboration or fails to engender interprofessional knowledge and skill. We need to work together to establish education strategies that enhance collaborative working along with profession specific skills to produce a highly skilled, proactive, and respectful work force focused on providing safe and effective health for patients and communities.
Key Words: interprofessional education; multiprofessional learning; teamwork
The role of the chief executive in the NHS is to act as organisational head, with financial and managerial responsibility, and now responsibility has been extended to include clinical standards as part of the duty of quality and the introduction of clinical governance. These new responsibilities have implications for relations with staff inside the organisation and, in particular, with clinicians, as well as adding to the overall public accountability of chief executives. As well as increasing expectations of chief executives to meet performance objectives and other targets within the organisation, their role remains relatively new and sometimes contentious in the health service, forming part of the history of NHS management reform. The developing role of chief executives and the complex world in which they operate in the health service is discussed. It is suggested that support from colleagues at both the organisational and national levels is required to help them discharge their new responsibilities, together with a greater focus on the development of their role and skills.
Key Words: NHS chief executives; management reform; clinical governance
Health professionals need competencies in improvement skills if they are to contribute usefully to improving patient care. Medical education programmes in the USA have not systematically taught improvement skills to residents (registrars in the UK). The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) has recently developed and begun to deploy a competency based model for accreditation that may encourage the development of improvement skills by the 100 000 residents in accredited programmes. Six competencies have been identified for all physicians, independent of specialty, and measurement tools for these competencies have been described. This model may be applicable to other healthcare professions. This paper explores patterns that inhibit efforts to change practice and proposes an educational model to provide changes in management skills based on trainees' analysis of their own work.
Key Words: physician education; improvement skills; accreditation; competency
Investigations of accidents in a number of hazardous domains suggest that a cluster of organisational pathologies—the "vulnerable system syndrome" (VSS)—render some systems more liable to adverse events. This syndrome has three interacting and self-perpetuating elements: blaming front line individuals, denying the existence of systemic error provoking weaknesses, and the blinkered pursuit of productive and financial indicators. VSS is present to some degree in all organisations, and the ability to recognise its symptoms is an essential skill in the progress towards improved patient safety. Two kinds of organisational learning are discussed: "single loop" learning that fuels and sustains VSS and "double loop" learning that is necessary to start breaking free from it.
Key Words: vulnerable system syndrome; risk management; patient safety; learning
Background—There is currently a political enthusiasm for the development and use of clinical guidelines despite, paradoxically, there being relatively few healthcare issues that have a sound research evidence base. As decisions have to be made even where there is an undetermined evidence base and that limiting recommendations to where evidence exists may reduce the scope of guidelines, thus limiting their value to practitioners, guideline developers have to rely on various different sources of evidence and adapt their methods accordingly. This paper outlines a method for guideline development which incorporates a consensus process devised to tackle the challenges of a variable research evidence base for the development of a national clinical guideline on risk assessment and prevention of pressure ulcers.
Method—To inform the recommendations of the guideline a formal consensus process based on a nominal group technique was used to incorporate three strands of evidence: research, clinical expertise, and patient experience.
Results—The recommendations for this guideline were derived directly from the statements agreed in the formal consensus process and from key evidence-based findings from the systematic reviews. The existing format of the statements that participants had rated allowed a straightforward revision to "active" recommendations, thus reducing further risk of subjectivity entering into the process.
Conclusions—The method outlined proved to be a practical and systematic way of integrating a number of different evidence sources. The resultant guideline is a mixture of research based and consensus based recommendations. Given the lack of available guidance on how to mix research with expert opinion and patient experiences, the method used for the development of this guideline has been outlined so that other guideline developers may use, adapt, and test it further.
Key Words: guidelines; guideline development; formal consensus process; nominal group technique; pressure ulcers
Objectives—To examine the influence of evidence-based guidance on health care decisions, a study of the use of seven different sources and types of evidence-based guidance was carried out in senior health professionals in England with responsibilities either for directing and purchasing health care based in the health authorities, or providing clinical care to patients in trust hospitals or in primary care.
Setting—Three health settings: 46 health authorities, 162 acute and/or community trust hospitals, and 96 primary care groups in England.
Sample—566 subjects (46 directors of public health, 49 directors of purchasing, 375 clinical directors/consultants in hospitals, and 96 lead general practitioners).
Main outcome measures—Knowledge of selected evidence-based guidance, previous use ever, beliefs in quality, usefulness, and perceived influence on practice.
Results—A usable response rate of 73% (407/560) was achieved; 82% (334/407) of respondents had consulted at least one source of evidence-based guidance ever in the past. Professionals in the health authorities were much more likely to be aware of the evidence-based guidance and had consulted more sources (mean number of different guidelines consulted 4.3) than either the hospital consultants (mean 1.9) or GPs in primary care (mean 1.8). There was little variation in the belief that the evidence-based guidance was of "good quality", but respondents from the health authorities (87%) were significantly more likely than either hospital consultants (52%) or GPs (57%) to perceive that any of the specified evidence-based guidance had influenced a change of practice. Across all settings, the least used route to accessing evidence-based guidance was the Internet. For several sources an effect was observed between use ever, the health region where the health professional worked, and the region where the guidance was produced or published. This was evident for some national sources as well as in those initiatives produced locally with predominantly local distribution networks.
Conclusions—The evidence-based guidance specified was significantly more likely to be seen to have contributed to the decisions of public health specialists and commissioners than those of consultants in hospitals or of GPs in a primary care setting. Appropriate information support and dissemination systems that increase awareness, access, and use of evidence-based guidance at the clinical interface should be developed.
Key Words: evidence-based guidance; guidelines; evidence-based medicine
Objective—To evaluate a programme introducing quality improvement (QI) in nursing education.
Settings—Betanien College of Nursing and clinical practices at hospitals in Bergen.
Subjects—52 nursing students from a second year class working in 16 groups undertaking hospital based practical studies.
Intervention—Second year nursing students were assigned to follow a patient during a day's work and to record the processes of care from the patient's perspective. Data collected included waiting times, patient information, people in contact with the patient, investigations, and procedures performed. Students also identified aspects of practice that could be improved. They then attended a 2 day theoretical introductory course in QI and each group produced flow charts, cause/effect diagrams, and outlines of quality goals using structure, process, and results criteria to describe potential improvements. Each group produced a report of their findings.
Main measures—A two-part questionnaire completed by the students before and after the intervention was used to assess the development of their understanding of QI. Evidence that students could apply a range of QI tools and techniques in the specific setting of a hospital ward was assessed from the final reports of their clinical attachments.
Results—The students had a significantly better knowledge of QI after the introductory course and group work than before it, and most students indicated that they considered the topic highly relevant for their later career. They reported that it was quite useful to observe one patient throughout one shift and, to some extent, they learned something new. Students found the introductory course and working in groups useful, and most thought the programme should be included in the curriculum for other nursing students. They considered it important for nurses in general to have knowledge about QI, indicating a high perceived relevance of the course. All 16 groups delivered reports of their group work which were approved by the tutors. Through the reports, all the groups demonstrated knowledge and ability to apply tools and techniques in their practical studies in a hospital setting.
Conclusions—The introduction of a short experience-based programme into the practical studies of second year nursing students enabled them to learn about the concepts, tools, and techniques of continuous QI in a way that should provide them with the skills to undertake it as part of routine practice.
Key Words: learning; quality improvement; nursing education; intervention
Objectives—To develop and evaluate an information service in which a "clinical informaticist" (a GP with training in evidence-based medicine) provided evidence-based answers to questions posed by GPs and nurse practitioners.
Design—Descriptive pilot study with systematic recording of the process involved in searching for and critically appraising literature. Evaluation by questionnaire and semi-structured interview.
Participants—34 clinicians from two London primary care groups (Fulham and Hammersmith).
Main outcome measures—Number and origin of questions; process and time involved in producing summaries; satisfaction with the service.
Results—All 100 clinicians in two primary care groups were approached. Thirty four agreed to participate, of whom 22 asked 60 questions over 10 months. Participants were highly satisfied with the summaries they received. For one third of questions the clinicians stated they would change practice in the index patient, and for 55% the participants stated they would change practice in other patients. Answering questions thoroughly was time consuming (median 130 minutes). The median turnaround time was 9 days; 82% of questions were answered within the timeframe specified by the questioner. Without the informaticist, one third of questions would not have been pursued.
Conclusion—The clinical informaticist service increased access to evidence for busy clinicians. Satisfaction was high among users and clinicians stated that changes in practice would occur. However, uptake of the service was lower than expected (22% of those offered the service). Further research is needed into how this method of increasing access to evidence compares with other strategies, and whether it results in improved health outcomes for patients.
Key Words: clinical informaticist; evidence-based medicine; information services
Objective—To assess the deleterious effects of waiting for admission to a nursing home on the state of health of patients and their informal caregivers, and on the burden of caring.
Design and participants—Prospective longitudinal study consisting of interviews with informal caregivers during the period on the waiting list and after admission of the patient to a nursing home. Analysis of patients' files on diagnosis, date of registration on the waiting list, and date of admission to nursing home.
Setting—Ninety three patients registered on waiting lists for admission to a psychogeriatric nursing home in two regions of Amsterdam.
Results—Seventy eight of the 93 patients were admitted to a nursing home. The burden on the caregivers declined after admission of the patient but depressive symptoms did not. After 6 months a subgroup of 19 caregivers whose relatives were still waiting to be admitted were interviewed. The health of these patients remained stable during this waiting period and only problems in activities of daily living increased. The burden on these 19 informal caregivers and their state of health remained stable during the waiting period.
Conclusions—A decline in the state of health and a rise in the burden on caregivers during the waiting period did not occur. However, a decrease in the burden and an improvement in mental health could have started earlier if patients had been admitted earlier.
Key Words: waiting lists; nursing homes; informal caregivers
Background—The need for quality improvement and increasing concern about the costs and appropriateness of health care has led to the implementation of quality systems in healthcare organisations. In addition, nursing homes have made significant investments in their development. The effects of the implementation of quality systems on health related outcomes are not yet clear.
Objective—To examine evidence in the literature on whether quality systems have an impact on the care process and the satisfaction and health outcomes of long term care residents.
Methods—Review of the literature.
Results—The 21 empirical studies identified concerned quality system activities such as the implementation of guidelines; providing feedback on outcomes; assessment of the needs of residents by means of care planning, internal audits and tuition; and an ombudsman for residents. Only four articles described controlled studies. The selected articles were grouped according to five focal areas of quality. The opinion of residents was seldom used to evaluate the effectiveness of quality systems. The effects on care processes and the health outcomes of long term care residents were inconsistent, but there was some evidence from the controlled studies that specific training and guidelines can influence the outcomes at the patient level.
Conclusions—The design of most of the studies meant that it was not possible to attribute the results entirely to the newly implemented quality system. As it is difficult in practice to design a randomised controlled study, future research into the effectiveness of quality systems should not only focus on selected correlates of quality, but should also include a qualitative and quantitative (multivariate and multilevel) approach. The methods used to measure quality need to be improved.
Key Words: quality measurement; long term care; nursing homes; effectiveness
This paper responds to the current emphasis on organisational learning in the NHS as a means of improving healthcare systems and making hospitals safer places for patients. Conspiracies of silence have been identified as obstacles to organisational learning, covering error and hampering communication. In this paper we question the usefulness of the term and suggest that "cultural censorship", a concept developed by the anthropologist Robin Sherriff, provides a much needed insight into cultures of silence within the NHS. Drawing on a number of illustrations, but in particular the Ritchie inquiry into the disgraced gynaecologist Rodney Ledward, we show how the defining characteristics of cultural censorship can help us to understand how adverse events get pushed underground, only to flourish in the underside of organisational life.
Key Words: cultural censorship; organisational culture; quality improvement; patient safety