Changing Hospital Culture to Save Lives

Zahirah McNatt, project director, Yale GHLI

Last week, GHLI and a group of representatives from hospitals across the country convened in the city of Atlanta because we believe that leadership saves lives and that organizational culture can impact clinical outcomes in the hospital setting.  

A stretch? Perhaps. 

A decade of research led by Yale highlights five strategies for reducing mortality rates for patients with heart attacks. We argue that these strategies are proxies for aspects of organizational culture and that culture may be just as significant as new drugs and devices.

During the Leadership Saves Lives (LSL) launch, we met with hospital executives, nurses, interventional cardiologists, emergency room physicians, physician assistants and quality improvement directors – all with the goal of understanding the evidence base for organizational culture and clinical outcomes and creating a learning community.

We spent two days cultivating relationships across ten U.S. hospitals, reviewing the science behind the intervention, laying out a plan for our two years of work together and exploring each hospital’s organizational culture through artistic activities. We partnered with amazing institutions–The Medicines Company and the Mayo Clinic Care Network–both at the vanguard of their industries.  

The commitment and enthusiasm expressed by each of the 10 hospital teams was inspiring. They came from across the nation, including Montana, Florida, North Dakota and Kentucky. They spoke of issues like “turf wars” between professions and a need for a greater sense of respect in the workplace. They highlighted their successes with integrating pharmacists into the AMI care continuum and challenges with better engaging emergency medical services in quality improvement efforts.

Together, we focused on creative problem solving, a technique for finding solutions to clinical and operational issues, through engaging key staff, developing strategy and being open to new ideas. And we explored how best to encourage interdisciplinary communication and coordination. 

The launch and the project are the result of both personal and professional efforts to improve care for patients with AMI. We are proud to be a part of this endeavor.
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