Navigating Hierarchy in the Clinical Setting: Working and Communicating with Others

Slide Presentation

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Navigating Hierarchy in the Clinical Setting: Working and Communicating with Others

Susan M. Hohenhaus, LPD, RN, CEN, FAEN
Executive Director
Emergency Nurses Association

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Learning Objectives

  • Describe the relationship between hierarchy and patient safety
  • Explain communication strategies that empower team members to speak up and challenge when appropriate
  • Identify characteristics of high performing teams and barriers to their performance

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Why No Title in the Title Slide?

  • Why are we talking about this at all?
    • `CAUTI calls and titles

What we model matters.

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Hierarchy- What Does it Mean and Where Does it Come From\

  • Then (1380 Oxford English Dictionary): ‘a system of orders of angels and heavenly beings‘
  • Now: a group of individuals ranked according to authority, capacity, or position

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How did we get here- Historically speaking?

“100 years ago, a series of studies about the education of health professionals, led by the 1910 Flexner report, sparked ground-breaking reforms. Through integration of modern science into the curricula at university-based schools, the reforms equipped health professionals with the knowledge that contributed to the doubling of life span during the 20th century.”

—Frenk, J., Chen, L., Bhutta, Z., Cohen, J., Crisp, N., Evans, T., Fineberg, H., Garcia, P., Ke, Y., Kelley, P., Kistnasamy, B., Meleis, A., Naylor, D., Pablos-Mendez, A., Reddy, S., Scrimshaw, S., Sepulveda, J., Serwadda, D. & Zurayk, H. 2010. Health professionals for a new century: transforming education to strengthen health systems in an interdependent world. The Lancet, 376, 1923-58.

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“Here in the 21st Century, all is not well.”

“Glaring gaps and inequities in health persist both within and between countries, underscoring our collective failure to share the dramatic health advances equitably.”

  • Evolving health threats:
    • New infectious, environmental, and behavioural risks
    • Rapid demographic and epidemiological transitions
    • Health systems worldwide are struggling to keep up, as they become more complex and costly, placing additional demands on health workers.”

—Frenk, J et al.

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Who Is Your Tribe?

“Professional education has not kept pace with these challenges, largely because of fragmented, outdated, and static curricula that produce ill-equipped graduates. The problems are systemic: mismatch of competencies to patient and population needs; poor teamwork; persistent gender stratification of professional status; narrow technical focus without broader contextual understanding; episodic encounters rather than continuous care; predominant hospital orientation at the expense of primary care; quantitative and qualitative imbalances in the professional labour market; and weak leadership to improve health-system performance. Laudable efforts to address these deficiencies have mostly floundered, partly because of the so-called tribalism of the professions—ie, the tendency of the various professions to act in isolation from or even in competition with each other.

—Frenk, J et al.

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Handwashing- does hierarchy get in the way?

“Not My (Your) job!”

 Pronovost’s ICU work and hierarchy worked eventually, but was not well accepted initially.

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Hierarchies: the Berlin Wall of Patient Safety

“To maximize patient safety considerations the medical hierarchy needs to be balanced in favour of teaching and learning rather than the exercise of power.”

Hierarchies: the Berlin Wall of Patient Safety
MM Walton Qual Saf Health Care. 2006 August; 15(4): 229–230.

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Toxic Hierarchy and Patient Safety: A Few Case Examples

  • “Does Anyone Have Anything Else to Add?”
  • Bedside Calculations as “Shame and Blame”
  • “My name is Greg.”

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Plasticity vs. Dominance

“Institutional and cultural resilience and embeddedness may not have been given adequate weight in shifting educational, organisational and policy agendas towards ‘interprofessional practice’.”

—Mark Bahnisch, Centre for Medical Education Research & Scholarship, School of Medicine, The University of Queensland; Fellow, Centre for Policy Development

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Stump the Expert

  • Is hierarchy always “BAD”?
  • “What can be done if “BAD” hierarchy is enforced by the C-Suite?”
  • What communication tools can be used to break down the “BAD” hierarchy and support the “GOOD”?

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TeamSTEPPS

Why, I am so glad that you asked!

Image: TeamSTEPPS logo and cover of TeamSTEPPS Pocket Guide.

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Communication and Hierarchy

  • Clearly assert concerns and suggestions
  • Use an assertive statement
    • (Nonthreatening and ensures that critical information is addressed)
      • Make an opening
      • State the concern
      • State the problem
      • Offer a solution
      • Reach an agreement
      • OR escalate

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TeamSTEPPS reminds us…

  • Expert Team Leaders
    • Organize the team
    • Articulate clear goals
    • Make decisions through collective input of members
    • Empower members to speak up and challenge, when appropriate
    • Actively promote and facilitate good teamwork
    • Skillful at conflict resolution

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Barriers to Team Performance

  • Inconsistency in team membership
  • Lack of time
  • Lack of information sharing
  • Hierarchy
  • Defensiveness
  • Conventional thinking
  • Varying communication styles
  • Conflict
  • Lack of coordination and follow-up
  • Distractions
  • Fatigue
  • Workload
  • Misinterpretation of cues
  • Lack of role clarity

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High Performing Teams...

  • Hold shared mental models
  • Have clear roles and responsibilities
  • Have clear, valued, and shared vision
  • Optimize resources
  • Have strong team leadership
  • Engage in a regular discipline of feedback
  • Develop a strong sense of collective trust and confidence
  • Create mechanisms to cooperate and coordinate
  • Manage and optimize performance outcomes

(Salas et al. 2004)

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Check The Ego at the Door

“Status and ego should remain at the door of the meeting room and all safety team members should have equal authority to identify issues and challenge unsafe practices, regardless of title.”

—Hohenhaus, Frush 2005

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Quote

"The most important scientific revolutions all include, as their only common feature, the dethronement of human arrogance from one pedestal after another of previous convictions about our centrality in the cosmos."

—Stephen Jay Gould (US author, naturalist, paleontologist, and popularizer of science) [1941-2002]

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What We Model Matters

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do”

—Gandhi

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Thank you!

Questions?

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Funding

Prepared by the Health Research & Educational Trust of the American Hospital Association with contract funding provided by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality through the contract, “National Implementation of Comprehensive Unit-based Safety Program (CUSP) to Reduce Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infection (CAUTI), project number HHSA290201000025I/HHSA29032001T, Task Order #1.”

Return to CAUTI Toolkit Implementation Page

Page last reviewed December 2017
Page originally created December 2015
Internet Citation: Navigating Hierarchy in the Clinical Setting: Working and Communicating with Others. Content last reviewed December 2017. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/professionals/quality-patient-safety/hais/cauti-tools/archived-webinars/navigating-hierarchy-slides.html