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4 Things You Need for a Successful Dialysis Care Team Huddle

By Susan Eymann, MS27 Dec 2017

If you’ve ever played a game of telephone, you know how easy it is for a single message to be misinterpreted. The difference between miscommunication in a children’s game versus your dialysis clinic is the potential for patient harm. In fact, failures of communication are the reason for 70% of 2455 sentinel events, with 75% of those events resulting in patient death.

With stakes this high, procedures for clear communication in your clinic should be at the top of your safety checklist. One of the most popular tools for solving staff communication issues is the huddle. A huddle is a brief, daily meeting in which all relevant medical staff review and discuss approaches to patient care each day. Below we’ll outline 4 things you need to implement in order to achieve a successful dialysis care team huddle.

An established routine

Determining a regular time and location for your huddle is the first step to establishing a routine. Most huddles occur in the morning before patients arrive so team members can speak freely. Huddles should last no longer than 5-15 minutes. An extra tip? Allow your team to stand up to keep the meeting short.

Some clinics utilize huddles multiple times during the day to promote continuous problem-solving and teamwork. During the initial implementation of a huddle, stay flexible and open to what times and places work best for your clinic.

Designated roles and structure

15 minutes can fly by quicker than you think; Therefore, every huddle needs to have a leader to keep the group organized and focused. Designating a nurse or patient care technician can be particularly useful as the role develops their leadership skills. This can also be a rotating position that allows everyone to take ownership behind the wheel. The huddle leader shoulder keep everyone on task, facilitate the conversation, and ensure a judgement-free zone. Develop a huddle sheet as a way to set the structure, and modify over time as needed.

A questioning attitude

Mistakes happen, and when they do, your staff are probably already beating themselves up about their misstep. The last thing they need is to be shamed for their mistake. A huddle can help build a culture of non-judgment, as each problem is presented as a way for the team to learn through thoughtful questioning. A nephrology nurse participant in a patient safety culture survey stated that the questioning attitude of her practice’s huddle allowed staff to have “more autonomy and respect for each other” and “the time span between series safety events [grew]”.

Make huddles meaningful

When first enacting a huddle routine, dialysis staff can be reluctant to join in as they consider it yet another task to complete from an unending to-do list. Demonstrating the take-away value of a huddle is important for getting your staff’s buy-in. Using an impartial coach to give positive, constructive feedback on your huddle’s time management, facilitation, and communication will give the team incentive to improve. The huddle leader can also encourage quick shout-outs at the top of each meeting for positive reinforcement. Have a section in the huddle structure that allows for brief feedback on improving the huddle itself to help your staff develop a sense of ownership.

With patient safety a top priority, your dialysis clinic needs to use all the tools available to ensure a healthy environment. Develop clear communication protocols like huddles to make a significant impact on your clinic’s culture of safety.

Hemodialysis Patient Communication Essentials