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Study: Stressed Nurses Cite Link Between Medical Devices, Errors

A strong majority of nurses surveyed in a recent medical study have a clear prescription for improving patient safety, namely this: having the ability to spend time with patients.

As patently obvious and as much of a no-brainer as that might seem, adequate nurse-patient interaction is more a hoped-for result than it is a reality at bedsides in hospitals across the country.

In the above-cited study, which surveyed several hundred nurses, nearly 70 percent of the respondents pointed to more face time with patients as being the most important way to decrease medical errors and improve safety outcomes.

Such a strong response logically begs this question: Precisely what is it that is precluding nurses from focusing on what they feel is the most important component of their job?

In a word, the answer is this: machines.

Precisely, medical devices, which are seemingly everywhere in hospitals. Nurses are on the front line in interacting with those treatment tools, monitoring information, entering data and, importantly, trying to get devices hooked into the same electronic records system to communicate properly.

Reportedly, that latter goal is elusive, if not flat-out problematic. Nearly 40 percent of survey respondents pointed to so-called “interoperability” challenges with medical devices as being stressful for them and cutting back on their ability to spend needed time with patients.

A special concern attaches when communication glitches among machines require data to be manually transcribed and reentered. Many nurses say that this frequent happening elevates the risk of subsequent medical error.

And here’s an extremely telling point from the study, as noted by a media article discussing it: Close to half of all respondents informed researchers that the time they spent each day with medical devices was “the least productive use of their time.”