Staff Engagement and Patient Safety Outcomes

Angie Szumlinski Studies

Despite decades of research, improving health care safety remains a global priority. Individual studies have demonstrated links between staff engagement and care quality, but until now, any relationship between engagement and patient safety outcomes has been more speculative. A recent study was published in the Journal of Patient Safety, where systematic searches of Medline, CINAHL, PsycInfo, Embase, Cochrane, Library, and National Institute for Health Research journals databases, narrative and random-effects meta-analyses were completed.

The results showed that fourteen studies met the inclusion criteria, 11 of which were suitable for a meta-analysis. The analysis indicated a small but consistent, statistically significant relationship between staff engagement and patient safety. This is the first review to demonstrate a significant relationship between engagement and both safety culture scores and errors/adverse events. Despite a limited and evolving evidence base, they cautiously concluded that increasing staff engagement could be an effective means of enhancing patient safety. Further research is needed to determine causality and clarify the nature of the staff engagement/patient safety relationship at individual and unit-workgroup levels.

Wouldn’t it be a beautiful thing if we could improve our staff engagement and enjoy better resident outcomes? This study hints at just that and it might be something we should explore! Talk to your staff, measure their level of engagement, not just when they are in the break room but when they are providing care, talking to residents, etc. Yes, my friends, this requires you to do laps around your building on a regular basis, but won’t the rewards be worth it? Stay the course, stay well, mask up, get vaccinated, and stay tuned!