Before the big game, football players huddle in the locker room with their coaches, devising plays on a large board in an effort to win the game.
But huddling is no longer exclusively for sports. It’s just one of the new strategies being applied at Akron Children’s Hospital to ensure its staff functions as a winning team.
Huddling is part of Blue Belt training, which was designed to improve team communications, eliminate waste, reduce errors, provide more consistent processes, and improve patient care.
Anne Musitano, PharmD, MBOE, administrative director of Akron Children’s Mark A. Watson Center for Operations Excellence, is a Blue Belt instructor who began coaching leaders in Mahoning Valley last December.
“Through Blue Belt, we can show people how to improve their area and make it easier to function,” Musitano said.
The program comprises 6, 4-hour sessions. Usually the Blue Belt training is given to leaders in one department at a time, but the Mahoning Valley is an exception.
Because of the campus’ smaller size, Musitano is training leaders in a variety of departments.
Lisa Taafe, MSN, RN, CNP, clinical administrative director for the Mahoning Valley, said that has been an advantage.
“The vice presidents are in training with the manager of volunteers and the manager of housekeeping,” Taafe said. “There are multiple departments and it’s a great thing. You get to hear what they have to say and their recommendations.”
The first session focused on the characteristics of leaders and how to effectively eliminate waste and increase value. In the second session, the group learned process mapping, where leaders identify steps in a process and potential improvements.
At the third session, they learned how their departments could huddle for about 5 minutes every day. They have huddle boards, where they can track a metric of their choice.
Department managers then huddle with directors, and the directors huddle with vice presidents. The goal is to streamline the flow of information.
“Huddling makes sure everyone on a team has the same information to go by,” said Musitano. “For example, if it’s a patient care area, they know how many patients are there and if there are any special needs. Everyone has the same picture and asks, ‘What can we do better today?’”
The last three sessions focus on standard of work instructions, error proofing and communication. Before the participants receive Blue Belt certification, Musitano attends one of their huddles to ensure they’re actively applying these methods.
Taafe said she hopes the new strategies lead to long-term improvements.
“I’m hoping we improve patient outcomes. That’s our ultimate goal,” she said. “If we can do that through improved communication and decreased waste, that’s great. I want 100 percent of people to recommend Akron Children’s and to say, yes, they would come here again.”