Building the Ideal Quality & Safety Department, Part III

Is a Clinical or Nonclinical Background Better?

Clinical or Nonclinical Quality Specialists

Does the Quality Specialist (QS) need a clinical background? Not necessarily.

Many successful QSs have come from diverse backgrounds, including coding, psychology, industrial engineering, finance, and manufacturing.

Building The Ideal Quality & Safety Department, Part II

The Soft Skills are the Critical Ingredient for a Quality Specialist

My series on “Building The Ideal Quality & Safety Department” continues with this post.

I’ll post information every Monday until we’ve designed an entire department. When the series is complete, we’ll have a monograph, a step-by-step model for designing your dream department – one that gets results AND one where every FTE can be justified by a solid business case. I’ll publish it as an eBook so you’ll have all of this information in one publication. So let’s take a look at the soft skills for your Quality Specialist.

Building The Ideal Quality & Safety Department

Technical Expertise Required for Your Quality Specialist

I have received many questions lately about how to staff a quality and safety department. The most common questions are:

  1. How many staff do I need? Are there any benchmarks for effective staffing levels?
  2. What type of skills do they need?
  3. Do they need a clinical background? If not, what other type of education is ideal?
  4. My organization never approves my FTE requests and we can barely keep up. What can I do?

How Quality & Safety Programs Save Millions


One of my favorite speeches is titled, “How Quality & Safety Programs Save $Millions.” In it, I share 10 case studies that illustrate how quality programs can eliminate waste in healthcare organizations, especially hospitals. It seems that the more I give the presentation, the more I keep emphasizing three key points. They are:


I frequently deliver this speech to C-suite executives, and groups of CFOs and physicians. One evening, the group decided to add up the savings from the ten case studies. We were astounded to see the total impact!


How did these organizations generate more than a quarter of a billion dollars in savings? I’ve attached a reprint of the article where I review each case study (Thanks to HFMA for allowing me to reprint it here).

But we still have many doubters. Our peers, colleagues, and friends who still don’t understand the financial impact of well designed, well executed quality and safety programs. I often ask myself, “why do they still doubt that better quality and safety reduces costs?” “Why don’t they believe?” And then one of my friends reminds me that many quality programs, maybe the majority, suffer from poor design, or poor execution, or are plagued by the 1,001 QI project trap. All of which lead to little improvement, a lot of wasted effort, and no financial return for their organization. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

I hope these case studies give you some hope, maybe even some inspiration, that when you design your projects with an eye toward true outcome improvement, and execute your plan with precision, that these results are also within your reach.

I also hope that you can use these case studies to convince your organization, your leadership, and your finance colleagues that there is a financial return that comes with better, safer care. Once they’re convinced, getting the resources you need to prove this in your organization maybe just a little easier. To help you in this regards, I’ve attached the slide deck I use to make these points. I hope that you find the slide deck and the article helpful in your endeavors. After all, at the end of the day we’re doing all of this for our patients.