Corridor Clutter: A Life Safety, Facilities, Nursing and C-Suite Issue

Richard Guarino, FACHE – Lahey Hospital and Medical Center
Kristin Pitocco, M.P.H. – Environmental Health & Engineering, Inc.

It’s 2018 and corridor clutter remains a frustration for hospitals. It’s always on the radar for Joint Commission surveyors – annually appearing as one of the top cited Life Safety standards. In hospitals across the country many initiatives are launched to clear the clutter but frequently fall short of solving the problem. The fact is unless facilities management has the support of senior leadership their success will be significantly limited. Lahey Hospital and Medical Center leadership rolled up their sleeves to help facilities tackle this critical safety issue, resulting in clutter-free corridors – and some other unexpected benefits too.

The common scenario is that facility managers and safety officers set out to fix corridor clutter problems and end up appearing as the enemy, always nagging nursing staff to move their equipment. At Lahey, when senior leadership stepped in to support facilities it sent a positive message. It clearly showed that this was an organization priority and communicated the urgency in resolving the issue to ensure patient, staff and visitor safety.

Not surprisingly, medical equipment, beds, stretchers and workstations on wheels were the big contributors to clutter. Lahey’s Safety department in conjunction with Nursing Leadership interviewed nursing staff and found that there were multiple reasons that these items remained in the corridor. In some cases, storage spaces were too far away, other times, they simply didn’t know where to store the equipment (either due to lack of space or knowledge). In partnership with the leadership on the units, Lahey’s facility management team identified options for storage, and helped to reclaim storage space that had previously been converted to a different use.

Senior leadership was instrumental in conducting daily rounding in all units and departments, spotting and reporting problems, and most importantly, driving home the importance of the issue. These daily rounds proved invaluable. It opened the lines of communication between nursing, the front line of patient care, and leadership. The nursing staff appreciated senior leadership taking the time to understand their issues and expressed that they felt that the leaders were a part of the team to address the issue, and not just expecting them to fix the problem on their own. The visible commitment from leadership to help greatly increased all colleagues’ engagement on the matter.

Lahey will share how they successfully got the commitment and active involvement of leadership to present a united front and drive accountability and ownership among all staff to solve the problem of corridor clutter. Additional measures implemented to keep the momentum going will be discussed including:

  • Patient transport serves as a “hotline” for moving clutter to its proper storage location.
  • Continued periodic tours of corridors by leadership maintains visibility and keeps the lines of communication open.
  • Storage requirements are incorporated into all renovation and new construction projects.
  • Monthly briefings with representatives from nursing help address any new issues.
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