Improving patient safety and standardizing safety practices are two hugely important but often underappreciated elements of healthcare administration. Good patient safety practices can impact the quality of a patient's experience at a particular facility, but they can also impact staff satisfaction and the financial well-being of the facility. While these roles may not get the public glory they deserve for the service they provide, the earning potential, career stability, and outlook for careers in patient safety make them a must-consider for individuals who are pursuing their masters in healthcare administration.
The Impact of Patient Safety Roles
Patient safety positions influence myriad aspects of patient and staff experience. In addition to improving patient experience, safety management in health care administration is vital to maintaining fiscal solvency. In high-safety risk facilities, such as acute care and nursing homes, keeping focus on safety management can reduce potentially substantial costs related to slips, falls, incorrect medication or dosage, disaster management, and patient transportation.
Individuals who fill these roles are charged with a range of responsibilities, including safety and quality assurance program development, policies and standard compliance, and safety and quality assessment and reporting – all core management practices.
Safety and Quality Assurance Program Development
Individuals who work within patient safety are often required to identify, develop, and implement programming initiatives that address safety and quality assurance. These programs may be run in partnership with or under the facility's chief medical officer or other high-ranking medical professional to ensure their effectiveness.
Some of these programs may be targeting patients, and include everything from new physical or operational protocols to awareness campaigns. Other programs target staff members to promote adherence to procedures and protocols related to patient safety. Programs that target staff members may also require a patient safety professional to provide continued coaching, support, and accountability for staff members over time.
Policies and Standards Compliance
Individuals who work with patient safety may also be involved in analyzing, editing where appropriate, and ensuring facility adherence to policies and standards related to patient safety. The national safety policies are typically regulated by the Department of Health and Human Services, however many facilities also follow the suggestions from the National Academy for State Health Policy.
Safety, Quality Assessment and Reporting
Individuals who work with patient safety are usually required to lead or assist facility assessments related to patient safety and policy adherence. The goal of these assessments is to ensure readiness in times of policy activation and also to ensure consistent application of policies and standards throughout the facility. Reporting on the findings of these assessments may include presentations and development of written reports to facility leadership or lead medical personnel.
Types of Careers in Patient Safety
An individual who wishes to forge a career path in the realm of patient safety has a considerable number of choices. Some common roles include patient safety manager, specialist, or consultant.
Patient Safety Manager
Patient Safety Managers are full-time facility employees who lead teams of individuals focused on various elements of patient safety and quality assurance. While they need to be knowledgeable and proficient in all aspects of patient safety, including policies, reporting, and assessments, the patient safety manager serves as a project facilitator and coordinator, working to support and manage the safety specialists within these areas. A patient safety manager is also responsible for communicating and working across departments and might also be responsible for reporting to boards on facility safety compliance. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, patient safety managers have a faster than average, 22% job outlook through the year 2020.
Patient Safety Specialist
Patient Safety Specialists focus on a particular aspect of safety and quality assurance, such as program development, compliance, or analysis. They may work under a patient safety manager or directly under the chief medical personnel at the facility. These professionals assist in the development and implementation of patient safety programs. They often collect information, pointing out patient-related errors while recommending changes to policies, or programs that could prevent future miscalculations. Patient Safety Specialists also attend training programs and presentations intended to increase awareness of patient safety initiatives. They often test patient-safety knowledge of employees and recommends improvements to training programs. At CBPPS.org, individuals can become a Certified Professional in Patient Safety. For patient safety specialists, the ability to communicate and build rapport with all kinds of staff at the facility is essential for specialists to perform well.
Patient Safety Consultant
Patient Safety Consultants are independent professionals who work with different facilities on a temporary or contract basis to help them improve, develop, implement, or train on safety-related concepts. Some contracts may last as little as a week or two or as long as several years. These individuals typically work within large facilities to open new departments or orient a younger staff, or they work with struggling facilities that need help upgrading their safety practices. Some consultants may specialize in a particular aspect of safety or quality assurance, or they may specialize in the management of patient safety teams. Depending on their experience, branding, and ability to negotiate, consultants may be able to command significant fees.
Entering the Patient Safety Workforce
Patient safety is a vital aspect of health care administration that needs vigilant, intelligent, and committed professionals. Earning a master's of health care administration is a great first step to contributing to the policies, procedures, and training that keep our medical facilities safe, healthy, and fun for patients and staff alike. If time and financial investment are concerns, consider enrolling in an online masters program for healthcare administration.
Utica College offers an online Master of Science in Health Care Administration program designed to provide working professionals a virtual and comprehensive education. By focusing on three distinctive areas, acute care, service organizations, and nursing home administration, Utica College prepares students to enter the world of health care administration ready to handle the unique challenges of some of the most in demand roles and types of facilities in our modern medical world.