Ensuring Patient Safety - 24/7

Article Categories: Nurse On the Job

There is a reason why safety is deemed important to human survival next to air, food, water, and shelter. It’s because it is hard to be healthy when there is injury. Injury and health are like oil and water. They do not mix. Therefore, to be healthy, one also has to be safe at all times.

In hospitals, patient safety is synonymous to positive patient outcomes. The ultimate goal is to cure a patient’s disease or to improve their health while keeping them away from harm at the same time.

The dangers lurking in acute care settings are all too real, and too perilous. It's no wonder almost half of the lessons and training obtained in nursing schools are about safety.

Medication errors, falls, pressure ulcers, misidentification and misdiagnosis of patients, infections, and missed or inappropriate treatments are some of the ways a patient can be injured while they are seeking medical care. Even if safety is a responsibility of all stakeholders, including that of the patient, nurses are on the front line of care and are also active facilitators of patient transitioning. Nurses must, therefore, be pioneers of safe practice.

What can you do as a nurse to embed in one's practice a culture of safety?

1. Keep yourself updated with new scientific findings on safety as well as new institutional policies that prevent patient harm. It is good to practice critical thinking in every aspect of care. The hospital is probably the only setting where asking a lot of ‘whys’ is beneficial.

2. Focus. A lot of errors are made due to doing an intervention while being distracted with other things. Alarms setting off, a physician calling your attention, and having to receive a phone call from the lab, are but a few situations that could keep you off-track and make you miss safety points. It may help to do a mental step-by-step check as you go.

3. Participate actively in patient safety huddles. Huddles are so important when you want to be error-free in a complex environment such as a hospital. Be vocal and precise when you discuss patient care. No gray areas. Never assume. Always seek clarification when needed, however busy you are.

4. Teach. Teach patients and their families how to be safe. Telling patients to be aware if there are medications offered them that are not their usual intakes or just plainly instructing them how to use the call light can help to keep themselves safe. Teaching patients and family alike to ask questions and seek clarifications if unsure about any concern, reminding the family caregiver to keep the wheels of the bed locked at all times, and reminding them to wash their hands before and after giving care procedures will go a long way in preventing patient harm.

Teaching is not limited to patients and their families. Newly hired nurses need all the support they can get to successfully be a part of a team that aims to improve patient health. If you are a senior nurse, be generous with your knowledge and share what you know with the newbies.

5. Be a team player and collaborate. Positive patient outcomes are never a result of a one-man-do-all approach to care. Many errors in acute settings are brought about by faulty communication and lack of collaboration. To prevent errors, information and feedback should flow freely within a team to create a safe care environment. Look for collaboration tools that can address communication needs within and among units.

6. Practice medication reconciliation especially during the transition of patients. If only medication errors were included in the list of reasons for a patient’s demise, it would rank 3rd as the leading cause of death. And as for the ‘7 Rs’ of medication administration, these golden rules apply at ALL times. Remember, right medication, right client, right dose, right time, right route, right reason, and right documentation.

7. Never be too tired or too busy to enforce infection control. Remember that sick people are vulnerable individuals whose immune systems may be compromised. Handwashing protocols should always be followed, as well as the universal and transmission-based precautions.
Safety is always a big deal in every aspect of patient care. To keep patients protected 24/7, nurses must model a culture in which safety becomes second nature.

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