Leadership Commitments in Action


All KentuckyOne Health

Benny Nolen
Saint Joseph Mount Sterling President

Benny Nolen on creating an atmosphere of open communication

For Saint Joseph Mount Sterling President Benny Nolen, MHA, it is vital to “create an atmosphere of open communication so that people feel safe to openly share questions, any kinds of concerns and opportunities for improvement. I always want to foster that in every meeting that we have.”

That’s how Benny sees the fourth Leadership Commitment: “I will make it safe for patients, visitors and staff to openly share questions, concerns and new ideas. I will foster an environment in which mistakes are treated as learning opportunities for improvement.”

Since the SafetyFirst initiative and the IRIS (Incident Reporting Information System) reporting began, Saint Joseph Mount Sterling employees have increased reporting of errors, safety issues or potential safety issues by 70 percent, Benny said.

“What that means to me is we’ve created a more favorable environment for our staff members to share issues with us when they arise,” he said.

A safety event could be a medication error, a patient fall or an accidental needle stick, for example.

“There was a time when staff members didn’t want to report because they didn’t want to get in trouble, or they didn’t want to get someone else in trouble,” Benny said. “Now mistakes are treated as learning opportunities for improvement. That’s why I’m so encouraged by the increase in reporting. We’ve got to have that kind of environment in order to improve when we find we have issues.”

Every week on Wednesday morning the hospital has a SafetyFirst reporting meeting where IRIS reports are catalogued, coded and recorded. These reports come before a multidisciplinary group made up of leaders from nursing, pharmacy, lab and other departments.

“The issues are addressed before that meeting,” Benny said. “If there was a patient fall, and the patient called for assistance before getting out of bed – what happened with the timeliness of that assistance? What was the reason for the delay? Did that patient need a bed alarm?”

There is nothing negative about IRIS reports, the administrator said. "These are opportunities for improvement. We need to thank our staff for reporting these issues.”

On rare occasions, a serious error occurs that must be reported to state government, Benny said. Even then, “there is no retaliation. We’re only human. Once again, this is an opportunity for improvement.”

There is a daily check-in meeting every morning for hospital leaders. This can be a time to report safety issues as well.

In addition to holding staff meetings to analyze issues, the hospital has a bimonthly Patient and Family Advisory Council for patients and their family members. “Our doors are always open to them,” Benny said. “We seek their input, because their feedback helps us become a safer facility.”

The hospital’s safety journey will last as long as the hospital’s doors are open, he said. “I can’t say enough good about the SafetyFirst program. We’re very pleased to be part of it.”

Click here to learn more about the KentuckyOne Health Leadership Commitments.