Posted June 11, 2014

Incorporating “Medical Minute” Into Daily Huddles in the Emergency Department

By Pamela Steenbergen, MBA

More and more healthcare organizations are executing daily huddles at the start of each shift as a way to effectively communicate organizational updates, focus on providing quality patient care and to proactively plan for the upcoming shift. Patient schedules, staffing, potential obstacles, goals, results and so on are all topics that can be discussed. Huddles are also an effective way to ensure that problems are quickly solved, announcements can be made about operational changes, and everyone hears a consistent message at the same time.

Huddles should be short (no more than 5 minutes) and we recommend they take place out on the department or unit instead of in a break room or enclosed area. We find that staff are more engaged when standing versus sitting, and access to a whiteboard or communication board may be beneficial for reviewing results. We also recommend incorporating “medical minute” into the daily huddles in the emergency department.

What is “Medical Minute”?
“Medical minute” is led by the Medical Director or physician associate and includes the sharing of recent patient cases or examples as teaching opportunities for staff and an opportunity for ongoing training. “Medical minute” allows providers to be involved and prepare for the upcoming shift along with the rest of the ED staff.

Think of “medical minute” as a learning opportunity for staff. For example, if a provider had a particularly challenging patient case, they can share the scenario with staff and ask for feedback on how they would handle the situation. It allows providers and staff the ability to share important reminders, learn from mistakes and share best practices from recent encounters. It can also be quick topics of interest such as why it's important to get patients undressed or the difference in croup and asthma in children.  

How to execute “Medical Minute”
The expectation is that if you are the Medical Director or physician associate on point for that shift, that person always hosts the “medical minute.” This ensures that “medical minute” always takes place and the Medical Director or provider is prepared to share information during their 60 second update. Timing is important to remember. “Medical Minute” is just that – 60 seconds. Presentations are not needed as it’s more of a discussion and learning opportunity for emergency department staff. 

Some organizations we coach have developed a different theme for each month to help guide the topic of discussion. Each department or unit can also use the theme to ensure that OB, Peds, ICU, and so on are all represented. This expands staff knowledge beyond their own unit as well for further development.

Why is “Medical Minute” important?
We shared that “medical minute” is an excellent learning opportunity for both providers and staff, but they also help connect to why patient experience is so important. The daily huddles start each shift with a laser focus on quality and safety for patients, but also shares organizational results and action steps that can significantly impact those results. The “medical minute” further provides a connection to improving patient experiences by bringing all staff together that may not typically interact with each other.

One organization coached by Studer Group, Swedish Medical Center, implemented “medical minute” and has seen great results. “Before we started the Medical Minute, our Physician and Nursing staff at both our busy Level One Trauma Center and at our Free Standing ER would come and go on shifts but rarely met together,” says Dr. Mark J. Kozlowski, Medical Director Emergency Medicine at Swedish Medical Center. “Our Medical Minute brings our entire Emergency Department staff together twice a day for a quick educational pearl from one of our ED physicians and an update on metrics and other activities from our Charge Nurse. The staff loves the education and this has been a real key in improving care and building a cohesive team.”

Additional Resources:

  • Get emergency department results more efficiently, effectively and collaboratively by attending the Emergency Department Excellence tracks offered at Studer Conferences
  • Gain access to complimentary emergency department tools, whitepapers and resources by clicking here.
  • Studer Group has several publications focused on improving results in the emergency department, including complimentary chapter tools found within the books. Click here to see our offerings. 


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