8 Ways Nurses Can Enhance Patient Safety
This article from an American blog, RealCareGivers, provides 8 ways that you can enhance patient safety. What are your top tips?
Nurses work on the front lines of patient care, constantly interacting with their charges. This position makes them uniquely poised to advocate for patient safety—or to make a mistake that could adversely affect the patient’s care. Below are eight suggestions for how nurses can contribute to a culture of patient safety, from reporting potential violations to communicating well with patients.
Make safety an organizational priority.
Like any part of company culture, a commitment to safety has to come from the top down as well as the bottom up. Verbal commitments are an important way to explicitly signal the priority your organization places on safety–bringing up checklists in team meetings, incorporating safety protocols into training for new hires, etc. But actions speak louder than words, and leaders at the hospital need to back up these values with their behavior. It’s not just enough to say you’re committed to safety, you need to show it at all levels of the organization and lead by example.
Create a culture of comfortable reporting.
Whether they’re flying on an airplane or taking care of patients, people are constantly told “if you see something, say something.” This sentiment is great, but when it comes to the workplace, nurses and other medical staff need to feel comfortable coming forward to report either an accident or a potential hazard before they’ll actually do it. If nurses are afraid that they’ll get blamed for the safety issue–and possibly suffer professional repercussions as a result–they’ll be less likely to report any potential violations or accidents, reducing patient safety through a lack of action.
Look out for common hospital hazards.
Hospitals and other care facilities are filled with potential hazards. Just-mopped floors can cause elderly patients to slip and fall, patients who have trouble chewing can choke on too-large chunks of food, anyone can trip on a loose electrical cord—and the list goes on. Keep an eye out for these potential hazards and either remove them or report them as appropriate. Even if it’s not “your job” to take care of a safety issue (for instance, putting up signage for wet floors is a janitor’s job, not a nurse’s), staying aware of these problems will help keep you and your patients safe. And it never hurts to take personal precautions, such as wearing slip-resistant nursing shoes.
Lead through example.
Whether it’s reporting a potential safety violation or taking care of a hazard before an accident can happen, nurses take their cues from their managers and coworkers. If they see someone else—especially a supervisor—ignoring these signs, that tells them that: 1) these safety issues aren’t a big deal; and 2) the issues aren’t worth reporting or trying to fix. In other words, nurses get exactly the opposite impression of a true culture of safety. Instead of turning a blind eye, set an example for younger, newer nurses by putting safety first and following proper procedures.
Follow care protocols carefully.
Sometimes the rules can feel like overkill or even burdensome, but they’re in place for a reason. Whether you’re looking up a medication manually or simply turning a patient in bed, follow the protocols that are in place. Missed care might not seem like a big deal in the moment, but the effects can add up over time. A patient who isn’t turned often enough can develop bed sores or an ulcer, for example. Following these checklists will cut down on medical errors and improve patient outcomes—and if anything does go wrong, following the protocol will protect you from liability.
Watch out for the nurse-to-patient ratios.
The more patients a nurse has to care for, the less time they have to spend with each one. It’s just math. Unfortunately, high patient-to-nurse ratios mean that nurses rush through their care protocols, reducing patient safety and outcomes. And the number of patients is only one aspect of the nursing workload since some patients require more attention than others, depending on the severity of their case.
Keep lines of communication open with patients.
Nurses aren’t the only ones who might spot a safety violation. You’re probably stressed and overworked as a nurse, but if a patient tries to talk to you about missed care or another safety problem, try to listen to them rather than shrugging it off. After all, patients are on the front lines of their own care right alongside nurses. If patients feel comfortable being candid with nurses, you might be able to work with them to identify and address potential hazards before they ever become a real issue.
Continue learning from mistakes.
Even the most committed hospital will still face safety issues from time to time. Whenever you encounter a mistake (or slightly better, a near miss), use it as a learning opportunity to help your staff identify what went wrong and how they can do better next time. A culture of safety is dynamic, not static, and it must continue to evolve and improve as you learn from mistakes and newly released best practices.
Building a true culture of safety will take participation from staff at all levels of the organization–from the cleaners to the hospital CEO–but nurses have an especially influential role to play given how closely they work with patients. Follow these eight steps to create a culture of patient safety that will make your nurses proud to put on their scrubs and head into work each day.
Want to be part of the campaign to enhance patient safety? Sign up to the campaign for nurse-to-patient ratios today!
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