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What’s New in the Patient Safety World

May 2020

A Takeoff on the Patient Safety Scavenger Hunt



Over 10 years ago, we wrote a column on doing patient safety scavenger hunts (see our March 16, 2010 Patient Safety Tip of the Week “A Patient Safety Scavenger Hunt”). In that column we noted you can also make patient safety fun at the same time you are identifying hazards in your organization. We provided the example of the “Patient Safety Scavenger Hunt”. In this exercise you award points for identifying patient safety hazards or risky situations or practices. Give your staff a finite period of time (eg. 2 hours) to look for these and award points for each item identified within that time frame. Use multiple staff and you may need to pair them up for the search for some of the items (like the suicide risk ones). We provided some examples you could award points for:

We provided a sample scorecard in that column.


Jane Bell, from Cityview Surgery Center in Fort Worth, Texas, recently described in Outpatient Surgery Magazine a takeoff on the patient safety scavenger hunt (Bell 2020). She describes a game/exercise in which two staff members stage 20 to 25 errors at a bedside in their PACU. These would include things like a bloody tourniquet left on a patient’s bedside stand, a surgery schedule in full view, an overflowing sharps container, and others.


The next day staff are divided into two teams. Each team is brought in to view the room for 30 seconds, and members write down all of the errors they can find. (She notes that the 30-second time limit is key because if your staff can spot problems quickly and under pressure, there’s a good chance they’ll do the same during a stressful surgery.)


After the scores are tallied (a point for each mistake noticed), the team that spots the most errors wins. They gave every member of the winning team a Starbucks gift card. The winning team actually correctly guessed all 25 of the errors in their “Secret Room”.


The point is that you can combine fun with learning and identification of patient safety hazards at the same time. Try these exercises in your organizations.






Bell J. Ideas That Work: Secret Room. Help Staff Spot Mistakes in Seconds. Outpatient Surgery Magazine 2020; XXI(2): February 2020





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