Top 5 tips to increase patient safety and avoid hospital error
Written by Alyssa Clark
1. Reevaluate hospital discharges
Minimizing the number of readmissions or need for follow-up appointments can not only save on overall hospital costs, but can insure the patients from your hospital that they are being treated effectively and correctly the first time through. Operate underneath a simple, steadfast and easily-understandable plan for each patient that contains medical schedule, records of upcoming appointments and names/phone numbers of all involved parties for the patients. The AHRQ researched the effectiveness of these tools in the workplace and found them to reduce admissions rates by a whopping 30 percent.
2. Prevent infections
Be extremely diligent about SOP cleanliness policies within your hospital, but take it a step further by following a systemized routine of five easy steps to prevent central line-associated blood stream infections: wash your hands, use full-barrier precautions, clean the skin with chlorhexidine, avoid femoral lines and remove unnecessary lines. Consistently using these steps will not only help keep personnel on the same operating procedures, but will ensure an extreme level of cleanliness and thoroughness which will improve patient’s chances for an infection-free visit.
3. Educate patients
Educating your patients about the importance of things like blood thinners and venous thromboembolism will prevent them from leaving the hospital with prescriptions that they don’t know how to properly use. With post-surgery patients typically needing a prescription for blood thinners, it is of the upmost importance that you brief the patient on the potential for developing blood clots and other dangerous side effects. If these drugs are used incorrectly, the result can be uncontrollable bleeding which is among the top causes of adverse drug events and cause for readmissions to hospitals. A free 10 minute patient video is available online or can easily be put together independently by your own hospital.
4. Partner with a Patient Safety Organization
Hospitals can report and share patient safety information with Patient Safety Organizations to help others avoid preventable errors throughout a range of aspects of the hospital sphere. These organizations provide both privacy and confidentiality thus creating a secure environment where clinicians and healthcare organizations can use commonly used procedures to collect, discuss and analyze publicly traded data. This can improve the overall quality of healthcare being provided within the specific hospital, as well as helping to improve the quality of hospitals on a global scale. Identifying risks, calculating increases/decreases based on said adjustments and analyzing overall hospital success are all benefits of partnering with one of these safety organizations.
5. Survey your hospital’s patient safety culture
Conduct frequent surveys of your hospitals to assess the facility’s patient safety culture, from the hospital’s employees to the patients being served within the hospital itself. Improving patient safety culture can be small gestures like patient/staff interventions and tracking the changes elicited from the close interaction over time. Extend these surveys to all aspects of the hospital, especially if your facility has a satellite care hospital, nursing home or rehabilitation center. Another key to this objective is making sure you have the right employees. Be sure to speak with your staff weekly about the importance of patient safety, and how detrimental positive customer experience can be to the overall success of a hospital’s supply chain.
COVID-19 "causing mass trauma among world’s nurses"
Healthcare providers are facing ongoing nursing shortages, and hospitals are reporting high rates of staff turnover and burnout as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In June a report found that levels of burnout among staff in England had reached "emergency" levels.
Registered nurses Molly Rindt and Erika Haywood are nurse mentors on US recruitment platform Incredible Health. In this joint Q&A they tell Healthcare Global about their own experiences of burnout and what can be done to tackle it.
What does it mean to be suffering from burnout?
Some of the most common reasons for nurse burnout include long work hours, sleep deprivation, a high-stress work environment, lack of support, and emotional strain from patient care.
While every profession has its stressors, the nursing industry has some of the highest burnout rates. The massive influence on patients’ lives, the long hours, and many other factors put nurses at risk of severe burnout. And with the rise of COVID-19, many healthcare professionals feel the strain more than ever.
Burnout in nurses affects everyone — individual nurses suffer, patients are impacted, and employers struggle with enormous turnover. This is why it’s crucial for healthcare systems and management to watch for signs of nurse burnout and take steps to provide a healthier workplace. Employers should be careful to watch for burnout symptoms in their healthcare staff — and not ignore them.
Symptoms include constant tiredness, constant anxiety related to work, emotional detachment and unexplained sickness.
How widespread is this problem?
Unfortunately, burnout affects approximately 38% of nurses per year and even the WHO recently labelled burnout as an official medical diagnosis. To put this statistic into perspective, nearly 4 out of 10 nurses will drive to work dreading their shift. Burnout is a reason nurses leave their positions.
Other top reasons for leaving included a stressful work environment, lack of good management or leadership, inadequate staffing, and finding better pay or benefits elsewhere.
Even before the pandemic, demanding workloads and aspects of the work environment such as poor staffing ratios, lack of communication between physicians and nurses, and lack of organisational leadership were known to be associated with burnout in nurses.
Have either of you experienced burnout?
Rindt: I have experienced burnout as an RN. I was constantly fatigued, never felt like I was off work, and would frequently dream I was still at work taking care of patients. In my particular situation, I needed to take a step back and restructure my work schedule to allow for more time off. After doing this, I was able to reduce burnout by deciding to work two shifts back-to-back and then have 2-3 days off.
Haywood: I definitely experienced constant anxiety related to work - so much so it would impact the days I wasn’t at work. At one point, I was even on medication to help combat the anxiety and stress I was facing on the job.
I had heart palpitations, chest pain, and wouldn’t be able to sleep before working the next day, which slowly started to impact other aspects of my life. I knew I couldn’t continue to live this way, it wasn’t sustainable. Because of this, I began to focus on my needs and prioritising self-care, especially during the beginning of the pandemic. Putting my needs first and not feeling guilty were necessary for me to overcome burnout.
What impact is COVID-19 having on nurses' wellbeing?
Some nurses have suffered devastating health consequences. Many nurses have dealt with excessive on-the-job stress, fears of becoming infected, and grief over seeing patients succumb to COVID-19 while isolated from their families.
New evidence gathered by the International Council of Nurses (ICN) suggests COVID-19 is causing mass trauma among the world’s nurses. The number of confirmed nurse deaths now exceeds 2,200, and with high levels of infections in the nursing workforce continuing, overstretched staff are experiencing increasing psychological distress in the face of ever-increasing workloads, continued abuse and protests by anti-vaccinators.
However, other small silver linings that came from the pandemic include increased professional autonomy, leadership opportunities and career growth potential.
How much of the cause of burnout is due to the hospitals or healthcare providers, and what can they do to address it?
Nurse fatigue poses serious problems for healthcare organisations, and a recent survey from Kronos found 63% of nurses say their job has caused burnout. The survey also found that more than 4 out of 5 nurses think hospitals today are losing good staff because other employers offer a better work/life balance.
Nurse burnout not only contributes to staff turnover, but it can impact the facility’s quality of care, patient satisfaction, and even medical outcomes.
Strategies to address burnout include training improving nurse-to-patient ratios, include nurses in policy discussions, and prioritise fostering a healthy work culture in hospitals.
What does your role mentoring nurses on the Incredible Health platform involve?
Rindt: My role can vary based on the needs of the nurses. The nurses love knowing they have someone in their corner who can give interview preparation advice or provide suggestions on how to improve their resume. Knowing that there is someone who is well-versed in the job process and can help set expectations on what to anticipate, really helps to remove a layer of uncertainty.
Haywood: When screening nurses, it is customised to what their individual RN or nurse practitioner needs, and at a time that is most convenient for them. Nurses are busy and often aren’t thought of first. Being able to provide support from the very beginning of their career advancement journey helps tremendously. We also provide resources such as resume templates and tips that can help nurses be successful and feel supported.