Tips for a quality improvement project

Initiating and participating in a quality improvement (QI) project can help achieve changes that make a real difference to a patient's hospital experience.

It's also a great way to enhance your e-portfolio, if you have one.

Before you take your first step and get started, consider the following tips.

Choosing the topic

  • Have you encountered a process or policy that affects patient safety or experience which no longer seems fit for purpose?
  • When deciding on your area of focus, choose something you and others genuinely care about. 
  • Keep it simple and don't try to do too many things at once.

Use a simple, systematic approach

The Model for Improvement (MFI) helps you define:

  • what you want to accomplish
  • what change(s) you are planning to make
  • what you are going to measure, to identify if any change has led to improvement.

You may then test changes on a small scale using Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycles. There are resources available online to help guide you in your planning.

Be clear and focused

  • Have a clear vision and objectives, so everyone understands what you are doing and why.
  • Use SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound).

Identify who you will ask to help you

  • You will need supportive senior engagement - usually your supervisor.
  • It's a good idea to undertake the project as a group, particularly involving the wider multidisciplinary team.

Think about how you might involve others 

  • Articulate your vision and try to find the hook that will make others want to get involved as well. For example, what new skills will they acquire? What will their rewards be for participating - team recognition, CV boosting or leadership?

Organise your time

  • Complete the project in a specified timeframe (usually over a 12-16 week training post) and keep the momentum going.
  • Chart your progress with a project template.
  • Keep on track with regular check-ins with your supervisor.
  • A team approach also helps with data collection.

Make a change and evaluate it to see if it worked

  • Use a straightforward measuring process, so there is no doubting the improvements made.
  • It's important to know the baseline activity before you start, so you have a number of points of comparison and keep measuring little and often. Two data points are not enough.
  • Record your results on a run chart so you can see the changes taking place over time.

Document your project to show what you have learned

  • Using the PDSA cycle as the framework for your project, be clear about what was learnt, what worked and what didn't.

Sustainability

  • Think right at the start about how this project will continue when you have moved on.
  • Be clear how your QI project fits with organisational aims and the benefits for staff, as well as patients. 
  • Identify a successor to take the project forward, working with continued senior support.
  • Make sure a process for continued measurement is put in place.

This guidance was correct at publication 22/05/2019. It is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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