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December 2011, Volume 41 Number 12 , p 22 - 24


  • Dolores Morrison MSN, RN, ACNS-BC
  • Chakaire Sanders LPN


SINCE THE Institute of Medicine report To Err is Human: Building a Safer HealthSystem was issued in 2000, healthcare systems have been challenged to incorporate best practices and patient safety initiatives into practice and to communicate these findings in a timely fashion.1 One goal identified by the Joint Commission National Patient Safety Goals is "improving the effectiveness of communication among caregivers."2Implementing the "huddling" process on your unit is one way to meet this goal.3-5 This article will show how huddling helped our staff keep in sync and deliver the best care possible to our patients. It also offers advice on how you can implement the process. First, take a closer look at the huddle.Huddling is nothing new-it's been used to deal with interpersonal relations in many settings, from football games to retail stores to growth companies trying to maintain an entrepreneurial culture.3,5The Institute for Healthcare Improvement's "Methods and Tools for Breakthrough Improvement" course describes huddles as a communication method that enables teams to conduct frequent but short briefings so that everyone can stay informed, review work, make plans, and move ahead rapidly.6 The ultimate goal of the huddle is to deliver patient-centered care efficiently. This process requires open communication in which participants ask each other to use critical thinking to find solutions to current problems or see patients a different way. For example, when discussing a patient at risk of elopement, one staff member thought to ask the social worker to send an animal welfare organization to the patient's home to rescue the patient's cats. Once the cats were safe, the patient never mentioned wanting to leave the hospital again.Huddling demands respect, trust, and accountability of all members of the team. Unlike formal staff meetings, huddles don't require preparatory work, an agenda, or minutes.5,7 Everyone is empowered to call for a huddle at any time without scheduling

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