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Understanding the vital role of the quality workforce

Article-Understanding the vital role of the quality workforce

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The improvement of quality and safety of healthcare in today’s complex environment requires an action orientation.

As healthcare leaders today move past the pandemic phase of COVID-19, they are faced with the daunting task of getting their quality and safety programmes back on track. They must improve quality and safety metrics while confronting financial pressures to help them turn around the financial crisis that most face today. 

The National Association for Healthcare Quality® (NAHQ) is a national leader in advancing the improvement of healthcare quality and safety. Its goal is to improve quality and safety through the single biggest lever available to healthcare leaders: the workforce. NAHQ’s extensive research has identified eight domains of quality and safety which encompass the work performed by healthcare quality professionals.  

NAHQ’s “Healthcare Quality and Safety Workforce Report, New Imperatives for Quality and Safety Mean New Imperatives for Workforce Development,” and its work with NAHQ clients via its new Workforce Accelerator® program shows that, with limited exception, the healthcare workforce is focused too narrowly on three domains of quality, at the expense of the others. This is particularly troubling because high performance in all eight domains is the key to leveraging healthcare goals of today and tomorrow.  

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Leaders aiming to get their quality programmes on track should not plan to go back to the programmes of the past. Instead, the Healthcare Quality and Safety Workforce Report confirms that work at the advanced level being performed in quality and safety is focused predominantly on three quality domains: regulatory and accreditation, patient safety, and quality leadership and integration. The analysis also shows that there is insufficient focus on the remaining five quality domains of population health and care transitions, performance and process improvement, health data analytics, professional engagement, and quality review and accountability.  

Improving the quality and safety of healthcare in today’s complex environment requires an action orientation as well as a broader perspective of the knowledge, skills and abilities required to make improvement happen.  

Many people working in quality and safety come to this work as a second profession and/or with little formal training in quality and safety. Leaders assigning other leaders and staff to these roles have lacked a way to clearly articulate the work that needs to be done to achieve bold quality and safety goals. It is one thing to set quality goals, and it is another for organizations to prepare individuals and teams to achieve these goals.  

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Stephanie Mercado, Chief Executive Officer of NAHQ

The next-level goals in healthcare require individuals to think differently about quality and how to achieve it. Mental models and organisational constructs built from historical reference points will not suffice in the future. 

A new day requires a new way to think about quality and safety and workforce readiness. To achieve next-level goals, healthcare organisation decision-makers and industry leaders should address the following: 

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-  Expand and act upon quality in the broadest context, incorporating all eight domains of quality and safety included in NAHQ’s Healthcare Quality Competency Framework. Do not isolate quality functions by department or into clinical and non-clinical silos. Understand that shortcomings in one domain of the competency framework will lead to shortcomings in others.  

- Develop a proactive, clear staffing plan that articulates who is responsible for which quality and safety work at what level. Coordinate that work within and across your organisation and the continuum of care.  

- Create a workforce development programme that supports the competency and skill development of your quality staff. Engage in their continued professional development and fund it.  

- Regulatory, accreditation, and rating organisations should add new structural standards for supporting the quality and safety workforce to guarantee support systems are in place to achieve and sustain quality goals. They should support efforts to make sure relevant agencies and organisations fund needed workforce development and reward healthcare organisations that commit to intentional staffing structures, training, and certifications for quality and safety. 

-Individuals working in quality should take responsibility for advancing the domain of professional engagement and build competencies in areas most relevant to achieving career and employer goals. 

Stephanie Mercado, CAE, CPHQ is the Chief Executive Officer of NAHQ, and will be speaking at the Quality Management conference at Arab Health 2023. 
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