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DHA to recognize COVID-19 front-line innovators and leaders

Hospital Corpsman administers a COVID-19 test to service member aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex. DHA’s Ready and Resilient Award allows staff of military hospitals and clinics to recognize examples of teamwork and team resilience during the pandemic. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Catie Coyle/RELEASED)

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The response to COVID-19 has placed front-line health care heroes in the spotlight while championing safe patient care. The Defense Health Agency is honoring those who show resiliency, leadership, and ingenuity during the pandemic through the creation of a new peer-to peer recognition mechanism hosted by the DHA Patient Safety Program. This new accolade, known as the Ready and Resilient Award, allows staff of military hospitals and clinics to recognize their peers for two attributes which are critical during difficult situations, explained Dr. Brian Lein, assistant director for Health Care Administration. Exemplary efforts of teamwork and team resilience will be recognized, as will examples of individual vigilance to ensure safe, reliable care for all patients.

“COVID-19 brought personal and professional threats of uncertainties and emotions that could have deterred, distracted, or derailed the safe delivery of care,” said Heidi King, DHA Patient Safety program manager for Medical Affairs. But across the Military Health System, professionals went above and beyond to improve patient and staff safety. From infection control prevention to innovative safety measures, King has heard stories from the field of the tireless efforts of healthcare staff. Recent nominees received recognition for their efforts in developing and implementing virtual check-in processes, pop-up screening tents, and the creation of protective shields for staff, among other examples.

“This award is a way for staff to share their story and celebrate peers at all levels across the MHS,” King said. The award will be ongoing, recognizing both clinical and non-clinical professional staff to highlight extraordinary efforts throughout the DoD during this unprecedented time.

An April memo sent by Dr. Paul Cordts, deputy assistant director, Medical Affairs, focused on mitigating risks to improve patient safety. In the memo he highlighted principles under Team Strategies and Tools to Enhance Performance and Patient Safety, or TeamSTEPPS®. The Ready and Resiliency Award program is a component of TeamSTEPPSTeam Strategies and Tools to Enhance Performance and Patient Safety (TeamSTEPPS) is an evidence-based teamwork system designed to improve the quality, safety and efficiency of healthcare. TeamSTEPPS consists of a collection of instructions, materials and tools to help drive a successful teamwork initiative from the initial planning to implementation through to sustainment. The system is designed to improve patient safety using a three-phase approach: Phase I Assessment: Facility determines organizational readiness; Phase II Planning, Training & Implementation: Facility “decides what to do” and “makes it happen;” and Phase III Sustainment: Facility spreads the improvements in teamwork performance, clinical processes and outcomes resulting from the TeamSTEPPS initiative.TeamSTEPPS, which reinforces critical team resiliency capabilities to mitigate risks and reinforce proven endurance strategies when faced with team uncertainties, such as during the global pandemic.

“The idea is to recognize the exemplary and heroic work by front-line staff and teams, and all others doing selfless acts of service in our MTFs during COVID-19,” said Cordts.

“A top priority is to provide peers across the Military Health System the opportunity to honor their colleagues,” added Lein. “Especially, during COVID-19, it’s important to recognize and celebrate staff given the personal commitment of nominators and nominees to promote a culture of safety and be a champion for resiliency.”

Criteria for peer-to-peer or team recognition should include the following attributes as part of Ready and Resilient Care:

  • Put People First
  • Take Care of Yourself
  • Take Care of Your Team
  • Prioritize on the Essential
  • Ask for and Offer Help
  • Do the Right Thing Right

Teams as well as individuals are eligible for the award. The DHA Patient Safety Program will accept and review submissions. Military hospitals and clinics can nominate as many individuals and teams as they wish; there is no cap or threshold. Dr. Cordts reads every submission and personally signs each certificate, according to King. The DHA recognized the first group of awardees across many military medical treatment facilities during a virtual ceremony in July.

Anyone with questions about the award can email the Patient Safety Program. To nominate an individual or team, please visit the TeamSTEPPS page on the Patient Safety Learning Center site.

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