Looking for South Carolina’s Zero Harm Leaders

A Q&A with SCHA’s Innovation and Acceleration Director Karen Reynolds about the new Zero Harm leadership award

SCHA recently launched its Drive to Zero Harm Leadership Award, a new honor that recognizes and celebrates leaders who strive for Zero Harm at every level of their organization. Because the award is new, we had Karen Reynolds, our Director of Innovation and Acceleration, answer a few questions about how the new award came out and what it means for the future of our Zero Harm efforts.

So why did SCHA decide to add a leadership component to the Certified Zero Harm Awards program?

Karen Reynolds: We're incredibly proud of the work South Carolina hospitals have done in eliminating medical errors from their units for long stretches at a time. We’ve given out 500 Certified Zero Harm awards in the past five years for those achievements, so in that sense we believe our efforts have borne real fruit. That kind of success is only possible in the long term if hospital leadership is fostering a culture of high reliability and demonstrating an absolute commitment to ensuring the safety of all who are entrusted to their care. So many of our hospitals have long been engaged in that work, and we wanted to highlight and praise those efforts. They are such fundamental preconditions to patient safety and high-quality care, but they can often be obscured by the tremendous clinical results that we’ve seen over the years. 

The Drive to Zero Harm Leadership Award addresses that directly and gives us a way to promote and celebrate the South Carolina leaders who have made strides in building those core features which will sustain zero harm over the long run.

How does this new award fit in with the larger growth of the program and the evolution of quality and patient safety in recent years?

KR: South Carolina hospitals have always been preoccupied with quality of care and patient safety. We’ve been on the forefront of that work in recent years, including in our focus on high reliability principles that are modeled on other similarly high-risk fields like nuclear energy and aerospace engineering. From our early efforts with the SC Safe Care Collaborative to our Certified Zero Harm Awards to our Zero Harm Blueprint, SCHA has facilitated many of our hospital’s efforts in this area. The Leadership Award is just one more way that we are helping South Carolina hospitals drive the charge.

What are you looking for specifically in these applicants? Can you provide some examples of what makes for a good candidate?

KR: We are looking for leaders that truly make the goal of zero harm an overarching priority in all that they do. That means creating and/or supporting a compelling vision for safety; building trust; showing respect; and promoting inclusion with staff, patients and families. It also means actively participating in opportunities like safety huddles; integrating Just Culture principles; and modeling safety mindfulness for clinicians and the entire workforce. A good candidate will also repeatedly have created opportunities to demonstrate transparency in their drive to zero!

What are your goals and hopes for this leadership award? How do you see it driving change in South Carolina hospitals?

KR: We have so many excellent leaders doing incredible things to improve the healthcare industry in SC. It is our hope that through this award we can recognize the long-term commitment required to develop pursue and sustain a culture of safety for patients, families and staff. We also expect that by recognizing the leaders in this effort SC can continue to define this work and showcase our efforts.

What's next for the Zero Harm program? What do you see coming 3, 4, 5 years down the road?

KR: We’re looking to continue advancing the Blueprint with more program-specific recommendations in areas like emergency preparedness, workplace safety, maternal and infant care, and food insecurities—basically in any area that hospitals can touch, we believe zero harm principals should be at the core. We also expect that the Joint Commission for Transforming Healthcare and the American Hospital Association will similarly heighten their focus in these areas as well.

For more information about the Drive to Zero Harm Leadership Award, The Zero Harm Blueprint, or our Certified Zero Harm Awards, pleast contact Karen Reynolds at kreynolds@scha.org. To nominate or apply for any of our awards, click here.