Safety afterhours for everyone

September 16, 2016

Hospitals never truly sleep. People are always coming and going, the lights are always on, and staff work around the clock to admit, treat, review, test and save the lives of the patients inside.

During this afterhours period (5pm to 8am), there are fewer staff members and services needed while patients take a rest from tests and treatments.

For the most part this works well, but as ICU Specialist and Head of the new SAFE Team Dr Tim Bowles knows, when things do get busy the pressure on staff can be immense.

Dr Bowles said Safety Afterhours for Everyone, or SAFE, is a brand new model of care, unique to Royal Perth Hospital, which has been developed to improve the afterhours period for staff and patients alike.

“SAFE has been running since January and although still in its infancy the feedback and early data are all pointing toward success,” Dr Bowles said.

“The SAFE model attempts to improve the support systems available to doctors and nursing staff overnight.

“Since introducing the model we have surveyed night staff, particularly nurses and junior doctors, and we are getting fantastic feedback.”

The model introduces: a new structure with a Clinical Lead who oversees the SAFE team, planned communication times with clear pathways for the escalation of issues, and a more equitable distribution of workload across the afterhours team.

Dr Bowles says one of the core principles of the SAFE model is being proactive.

“Rather than wait for situations to escalate and need our attention, we work closely with wardbased staff to identify patients with potential issues early and make plans for their care overnight,” Dr Bowles said.

“The team are supported by the Clinical Lead to proactively manage these patients so when the team handover in the morning, treatment is underway and patients can ultimately go home sooner.”

Dr Bowles, along with Katherine Birkett and Dr Deepan Krishnasivam who designed and established the SAFE team, were recently invited to present at the ‘The Hospital Afterhours’ conference in Sydney. 

Their presentation on the SAFE model was well-received by other hospitals and health professionals all hoping to improve their own afterhours service.