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Fostering Right Culture Can Avoid Preventable Nursing Errors

In the course of recovering from a major medical event in the hospital, a patient may receive care from a large team of medical professionals. There are the doctors, of course. But nurses and nursing assistants, therapists and pharmacists all have a hand in the outcome.

An added factor in the delivery of care is that on a given ward, the nursing staff may be dealing with a lot of patients. And the conditions of those patients can vary greatly, depending on what stage of recovery or treatment they may be in. Multiple demands may crop up suddenly and as we noted in an article not long ago, when nurses are pressed to multi-task, risks of errors increase.

What makes this issue more troubling according to experts in the field is that the most common errors shouldn’t happen. As the author of one article in an online nursing journal observed, research shows that 42 percent of life-threatening events in health care settings and 28 percent of adverse medication reactions are preventable.

And she says the most common mistakes, such as patient falls, medication dosage errors and medical record mistakes are due to hospital cultures that discourage professionals from working together and with patients as a team. To counter this situation, the author offers a number of recommendations.

To reduce preventable patient falls, nurses should encourage their charges to call for help before trying to get out of bed. They should also keep patient activity records up to date so that patient ability isn’t overtaxed. Making hourly rounds of patients increases the chances that an intervention can take place before a fall occurs.

To reduce infections, nurses should be practicing proper hand washing. Following all proper sterile technique protocols should be a given.

When administering medications, nurses should reduce distractions, but they should also press for and use electronic scanning systems to be sure the right care, in the right dose, is delivered at the right time.

As new equipment is rotated onto the floor, which happens often, nurses should make sure they are fully trained. They should also document and report any injury a piece of equipment might cause.

When preventable mistakes do occur and patients suffer as a result, questions of whether hospital negligence occurred deserve to be asked. Exploring the answer should always be done through consultation with an experienced attorney.