Practice Makes the Best Process

In my experiences managing a transfer center, the cornerstone of our success was establishing an iterative process that we practiced and followed on a consistent basis.  In preparation for our go-live, we drilled procedures and situations often. Our hope was that even though it would be our first day in business our staff would feel comfortable with our algorithms and be ready to perform their duties as if they were second nature.

An example we cited in our trainings was the preparation commercial airline pilots go through and the processes they have in place to make sure that no matter what situation occurs they focus on their duty – flying the aircraft.  In our case the duty of the transfer center is to get the patient accepted to the appropriate level of care in a timely manner. We viewed our processes as the avenue for success.  If at any time we got off track, the goal was always to get back on that avenue at the nearest familiar point and get back on track to the successful completion of the patient transfer.

On January 15th, 2009, US Airways Pilot Captain Chesley Sullenberger took off on a routine flight from New York to North Carolina. A fewseconds after takeoff the plane was hit by a flock of birds, which entered the engine system causing the plane to malfunction. Flight 1549, coasting above New York City, was about to crash. Remaining calm, Captain Sullenberger and his crew called upon their training and began emergency protocol. Captain Sullenberger landed the plane in the Hudson river, a technique he’d trained for. Flight attendants guided passengers to the exits as the back of the plane began filling with water. 512 plane crash

(Photo credit: Greg L., Jan 2009)

155 lives were saved by Captain Sullenberger and his crew that January day.

Healthcare epitomizes the unexpected. We can never anticipate precisely what needs our patients will have or what situations we will face in the process of care delivery. What we can do is prepare, drill, practice, and thus create consistent processes. Our practiced processes empower us to handle any situation.

A 60 Minutes interview with Captain Chesley Sullenberger provides a testament to preparation and how practice and process create experience that can be drawn upon in a time of need.  Captain Sullenberger said to Katie Couric, “One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years, I’ve been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience, education and training.  And on January 15 the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.”

Successful transfer centers must continue to make those “deposits” on a regular basis. Review your algorithms, practice your basic procedures, establish crisis practices.  With proper preparation, your transfer center will be ready to call upon its “bank account” and “withdraw” life saving processes, even in the most unanticipated situation.

If you are interested in suggestions for appropriate drills and process procedures, please feel free to contact me.