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Practice Management Blog

What to Include in a Physical Environment Policy for Healthcare

If you’re a full-time worker in healthcare, you probably spend most of your day inside the practice, which makes the practice environment crucial for optimal working conditions and team performance. Therefore, it’s of critical importance to provide a safe, healthy and happy practice environment.

Unfortunately, problems within a workplace environment can result in health issues for staff and practitioners and, in some cases, increased levels of absenteeism. This is because your work environment impacts your mood, drive, mental health and performance.

Given that a positive workplace environment is so important for a practice, what can you do to improve comfort levels? A good place to start is your physical environment policy as it provides a base from which to work.

What Does a Physical Environment Policy Cover?

The policy addresses three main areas: the physical spaces in your practice, a number of different processes for hygiene and safety, and the resources you use.

Physical Spaces

  • Waiting room – this covers the number of chairs available, signage in the waiting room as well as cleanliness and hygiene.
  • Treatment areas – space, lighting, temperature regulation, privacy, cleanliness and hygiene must all be factored into this section of the policy.
  • Bathrooms – bathroom areas should be hygienic, safe and accessible, with adequate lighting, signage, hand washing facilities and supplies.

Processes

  • Hand hygiene – denotes when and where to follow hand hygiene procedures as well as the provision of sufficient facilities.
  • Cleaning – all areas of the practice environment should be cleaned regularly and to the level defined by the policy.
  • Equipment – this covers equipment maintenance and adherence to the manufacturer’s operating guidelines.

Resources

  • General waste – your practice should follow an environmentally aware process for the disposal of waste.
  • Laundry – used linen should be cleaned regularly, stored correctly and replaced between clients.

3 Steps to a Great Physical Environment Policy

While you may not have full control of the environment that your practitioners and staff work in, having policies that cover topics such as audio and visual privacy, bathrooms, waiting rooms and treatment and or consult rooms will demonstrate your commitment to providing a calm and welcoming environment. It should be supported by stringent cleanliness and hygiene practices, that contribute to a sustainable future.

1. Safety First

Stop and think for a moment about how often, and in what ways, you convey the importance of a safe physical environment to your practitioners and staff. Does it get discussed monthly? Quarterly? Annually?

Awareness is important, and if you want to reduce workplace injuries, consider making a safe physical environment an important part of your practice’s culture.

Reduce Hazards and Threats

How likely are the following hazards or threats going to happen in your practice: Failure of electricity supply, telephone or water, fire or false fire alarm, property damage, break-ins, abusive or threatening telephone calls or persons at the facility, leakage of toxic chemicals, bomb threats and letter bombs?

Policies that cover hazards and threats to your practice ensure the safety of staff, practitioners, client files, assets and confidential documents. When a non-medical hazard or threat occurs, what do the staff and practitioners do?

Your practice needs to have mechanisms in place to ensure timely action and reaction to hazards and threats. Staff will feel more comfortable within an emergency if they’ve been trained and have a policy available to refer to.

Stay Safe

Security procedures in the practice are also important, they may reassure staff and practitioners and make them feel safe with the extra protection while entering and exiting the facility and in case of personal threat.

Security for communication practices is also important. For example, practices may install and have backup systems on hand, such as duress alarms for employees to communicate when a personal risk occurs.

2. Cleanliness is Key

Good practices start from the top down; management set the example for the rest of the workforce. Assessing problem areas and working on dedicated solutions to aid in removing the clutter can significantly reduce the risk of things going wrong.

Think about factors both large and small; for example, installing more recycling points or creating storage solutions.

In a health-based work environment, we also need to consider contamination and cross infections that staff and clients may be exposed to if systems aren’t in place to ensure that all areas of the practice are cleaned appropriately.

The cleaner a working area is, the safer it will be. Whether it’s equipment left out, spills not cleaned up, waste disposed of incorrectly or piles of paperwork building up; curbing clutter reduces the number of ways things can go wrong.

3. Be Comfortable

One in four (25%) workers believe that the discomfort of being at their desk stops them from being productive. A survey of 1,000 office workers by office supply company Fellowes found that 24% were uncomfortable at their desks, and 25% said that their working environment has a negative impact on their productivity.

Workers also found themselves being distracted because it was uncomfortably hot or cold, having to leave their workstations for extended periods because bathrooms were not convenient, having problems with IT, or through the auditory issues within the office or treatment room. Half (50%) reported that they are unproductive for up to an hour every day as a result of such distractions.

If you’re able to create a comfortable work environment in your practice, you could effectively boost the productivity of your staff.


Conclusion

To get started with creating a safe, productive physical environment for your team, you can begin by understanding the issues within your workplace that may affect the environment, and regularly surveying the workplace for potential hazards in equipment and work design.

But the most comprehensive way to ensure your practitioners and staff are working in a positive and safe physical environment is to develop policies and procedures that everyone can follow, and that starts with a physical environment policy.

Want a complete Practice Operations Manual for your clinic? Get the full pre-written documentation when you start with Power Diary. Over 100 policies and procedures – ready to go, just configure them to suit your practice. Sign up for a Free Trial to see your Practice Manual now.


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