Promoting The Importance of Peer / Team Coaching

Added on Jul 14, 2015


Hospital Safety

Kerry Johnson, HPI Founding Partner, is fond of saying that most accidents are preceded by the phrases “Hey guys, watch this!” or “This will only take a minute….” I recently experienced my own “this will only take a minute…” moment at a large and elegant family event when I tried to use a folding chair as a step-ladder. As fate would have it, the chair folded up with me still on it - leading to a significant fall. Of course, this was quite embarrassing in and of itself, as how could the “safety lady” do something so dumb, but the accident was made more humbling the next day when I was at the emergency care center and the doctor said, “So, tell me again what it is you do for a living?”

Obviously, I made a poor choice and a stupid mistake – probably due to overconfidence in my ability to balance. However, interestingly enough, my mistake was witnessed by several people who did not provide any peer or team coaching such as “Judy, are you sure you want to do that?” or “Here – let me hold the chair for you.”

Peer or team coaching is typically a part of the staff and physician error prevention behavior and tool bundle for organizations on a journey to zero harm. We need to be mindful that coaching requires courage: a willingness to speak up even if you might get a negative response. As leaders for safety and reliability, we need to promote peer and team coaching by protecting those who speak up:


  • Be clear on expectations. Staff and physicians not only have a right to speak-up, they are expected to speak-up. Harassment of those who do speak-up will not be tolerated.

  • Invite questions and concerns: Ask team members to let you know if they see anything unsafe or unexpected.

  • Reward and recognize staff and physicians who speak up – even if it does not result in a change to the planned course of action.

  • Act immediately to stop harassment or retribution.


I am hopeful that the lack of coaching in my situation was not due to concerns regarding intimidation however I will be sure to follow-up with family members on their lack of guidance. Situations like this should be lessons for all of us and an opportunity to recognize the importance of speaking up when someone is about to do something unsafe… and as a reminder to the “safety lady” to always be more careful and practice what she coaches!