“Innovation is Key” and interview with Alison Marshal and Susan Sonmor – Safety Den 2022 Winners

March 28, 2023 | News


Alison Marshal and Susan Sonmor of Sideny Care Home made a big splash with their Sailing for Safety initiative at last year’s Safety Den. The submission impressed the Safety Dragons by being a fun and innovative way to encourage staff to learn. We spoke with the 2022 Safety Den winners to get some words of encouragement for everyone looking to be a part of the 2023 show.

Why did you submit to Safety Den?

Alison: We submitted to Safety Den because we were asked to by our Vice President of Finance and Operations, Gavin from The Care Group. He asked all of our homes if we had any quality initiatives that would relate to safety that we would be able to present at the BC Care Providers Conference through the Safety Den. So we did it as a quality improvement here for education, and we also did it to motivate and energize our staff because everyone was pretty flat and pretty tired as we were travelling through the pandemic.


Where did the idea for Sailing for Safety come from?

Susan: I think it was [Alison’s] idea. She’s got all the good ideas.

Alison: I came up with the idea of sailing around—well, I didn’t—I’m not sure if I came up with the idea around the island straight away, right, but I think I came up with sailing. We’re doing something in a teams event, so a little bit of competition between the staff and then we put our heads together. So with Susan and our office manager, we put our heads together and asked what is more relevant to the island and that’s when we came up with the sailing boats. And then we thought it would be more fun if people did it as individuals and so that’s why everyone had a sailing boat with their own name on it.

Susan: And once we got together that brainstorming just kept going with they’re going to colour their own boats, we’re going to get a big picture of the island, and let’s really Google it and see how many nautical miles it’s actually going to be so that it can have some realism aspect to it. And yeah, it just blossomed from there. It became really fun.


What was the team’s reaction when you won Safety Den?

Alison: That was pretty exciting! They knew what we were up to very much and they were part of it. So it wasn’t like it was just Susan and I, it was the whole team. They were travelling the whole journey with us, and so they knew we’d gone away to present it and we were getting Texas at the end of the safety den, our presentations to find out how we did. And then we heard back that they were all celebrating here were without us. But that’s OK. We were celebrating in their own way, but they were very excited.

Susan: Yeah, we came back with the big cheque and everyone was just kind of cheering and then we had set it up and watched a video of our presentation and everyone came out and watched that and yeah, it just kind of went from there with the celebrations.


Is that initiative still going on at your care home?

Alison: The Sailing for Safety initiative finished at the end of last year and we have our new program with our annual education plan. Sailing for Safety was really brought in when we looked at our stats from 2021 and our stats for participation was pretty low like 50%. So that’s where the quality initiative came from that we needed to increase our education to have a safer environment for everybody in Sidney care home. So that’s how it came about really. And we took our percentage up close to 90% of participation from our staff. There was just a couple of stragglers who knew they were stragglers. They could see their sailing boat at the beginning not moving.

We’ve had, we’ve had a number of different homes and organizations contact us. Find out how we put the program together and how we put the initiative together. So that’s been really good. We’ve been asked to present it at a conference at Niagara Falls. Yeah. So we, yeah, we’re famous!


Safety Den’s motto is “celebrating innovation.”  What does that mean to you as healthcare leaders?

Alison: Well, I think in this day and age, innovation is really key. You need to be thinking outside of the box. You need to be energizing, and motivating your staff.

Susan: Yeah, they look up to the leaders to be able to motivate them and energize them, just like you said. And I think having something that’s innovated, something that’s new and brings the team forward. And you know, and having a success like this one, it’s it just shows that it works. Yeah.

Alison: And they were very proud. They’re proud to see their photos on everything, and what we’re doing at the conference you know and to go to [Safety Den] and win was wonderful. But yeah, the staff are very engaged in it.


What would you say to organizations that are interested in submitting to safety? What are your words of encouragement to them?

Susan: Make the time just do it. Yeah, it’s worth it. Yeah, yeah, it’s worth it. It’s worth just bringing the team together, especially coming through COVID and the pandemic and people are tired and feeling maybe a bit draggy that something like this is, is fun and very inclusive of of everyone. If you’ve come up with an idea that, you know, I think it’s, I think it’s definitely worth it, worth the time and energy you put into it.

Alison: And it didn’t cost much. It cost maybe $90.00 for our poster and some prizes for the staff during the months when we’d have meetings and give progress reports. So it didn’t cost much to put together and I think be creative, think outside the box.


Why is it that the simplest ideas are usually the most effective?

Alison: I think you can get engagement from your staff.

Susan: Yeah, I think it needs to be a simple idea to be able to be carried forward when everyone is so, so busy. You know, everyone only has snippets of time here and there. So something that’s simple and easy to do and something that’s fun, I think is is key to success.

Alison: And it wasn’t that time consuming for us to put together.

You know, we had fun, we had coffee to brainstorm, we had fun putting it together, we worked together. We used our online learning platform with our some of our Allied health professionals to deliver the education. So nothing there. Cost, there was no cost. We had all those things in place and I think if you can keep it low in cost.

Then it’s better for the company all around. Yeah, it’s better for everybody all around. Yeah. If you can look at an idea that you already are kind of doing that, just need some “oomph”.

Susan: Yeah, you just need some energy and you know, put into it that that’s, you know, that’s probably the one to pick. Yeah. Yeah, I think yeah, that’s perfect. That is, yeah, exactly what I wanted here. So yeah, thank you for that. I guess before we go, any just closing comments, anything you wanted to say to either your staff or anyone interested in safety then we touched upon that.

Just to do it. It’s fun. Yeah, do it really fun. They’re going to the conference and doing that presentation. It was, you know, great for our team. It was great for Allison and I as leaders it was.

It was a really great experience. Super fun.

Feeling inspired? You can submit your health and safety innovation to the 2023 Safety Den by filling out this simple form.