Patient Safety Awareness Week

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‘Up to 98,000 patients die annually in hospitals due to medical errors… An estimated 1.7 million healthcare associated infections occur each year leading to 99,000 deaths… Adverse medication events cause more than 770,000 injuries and deaths each year at a cost as high as $5.6 billion annually…’

Negative Nancy, much? Maybe. But that’s just because these number are REAL, people. And they’re courtesy of none other than the Center for Patient Safety. Don’t get me wrong. All you nurses out there are great. Fabulous, in fact! And you’re all doing your absolute best- I’m sure of it! However, in honor of Patient Safety Awareness Week, how about we all take a step back and review some of the most basic and effective patient safety tips.

Hand Hygiene

So here’s the thing. 80% of communicable diseases are spread through…TOUCH! Shocker, huh?! Not to worry, it’s quite simple to prevent said diseases- hand hygiene! The real shocker, though, is that according to the CDC, only 39% of medical staff wash their hands in accordance with hospital standards. Say whaaaat?! No wonder 1 in 25 patients admitted to hospitals are contracting infections! Nurses and Murses, hand washing is the A,B,C’s of hospital hygiene. Use the hand sanitizers, alcohol rubs, sterile gloves etc.- they’re there for a very good reason.

Check, Check, Check

I’m a ‘list’ person. Everything that has to get done in my life is part of some list or another. And it turns out I’m not crazy, ‘cuz guess who makes lists too? WHO! That’s right, in 2008 the World Health Organization compiled a Surgical Safety Checklist in order to lower the risk of surgical complications as well as mortality rates. And wadaya know? It’s been a total success! In essence, the goal of the list is to ensure optimal communication between all members of the surgical team. Patient identity? Check. Type/Site of procedure? Check. Precautionary measures specific to the case? Check. And the list goes on. While everything included on the list may seem self-explanatory, errors both in and out of the operating room are commonplace, making the concept of the simple checklist all the more imperative to preventing disaster.

Rest Up

If you had to choose one word to describe how you feel right at this very moment, what would it be? I’ll bet most of you are thinking, ‘TIRED!’ Studies have proven time and time again, that chronically fatigued nurses make more mistakes than their (well) rested counterparts. Healthcare deliverance relies heavily on human cognition coupled with logic, decision making, judgment, communication etc. And while 18 out of the 50 states restrict mandatory overtime, (either by completely prohibiting it or by severely limiting an employer’s ability to demand it) the other 32 do not, leaving nurses no choice but to fill in when understaffed. What’s the solution then? Advocating for these laws along with your fellow nurses, and of course, knowing your limits- when you feel like it’s to time to catch a few zzz’s, make it your business to do so.


In case you were wondering, that’s short for ‘abbreviation.’ And abbreviations, just by the way, are the cause for approximately 15,000 medical errors a year:o That’s right, abbreviations like ‘u’ for ‘unit’ and ‘q.d.’ for ‘once daily,’ have the potential to wreak havoc. A ban on the use of abbreviations in 2004 by the Joint Commission did manage to get hospitals to cut their use of short hand language from 20% to 3% but it is still an ongoing problem. The relatively recent implementation of computerized physician order entry systems can hopefully get rid of this issue for good. In the meantime, you do your part and steer clear of those abbreviations.

Remember: Hospitals are for the sick to get better. And hopefully, with these basic tips and principles, we can ensure speedy recoveries!

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