Keeping patients and nurses safe is part of running a medical facility and always maintaining a high standard of care.
With so many hospitals and medical facilities having a hard time finding the number of qualified healthcare workers they need to meet patient demand, it can be challenging to maintain standards. Still, it must be done to avoid mistakes.
Luckily, many of the practices listed are easy to do and go a long way toward keeping nurses and patients safe.
Good nursing and patient safety practices reduce recovery times and patient mortality
With a rapidly aging population and so many people needing care, it is important to find ways to reduce patient recovery times so more people can be treated and offered the care they need in a shorter period of time. Great safety practices can help achieve this. When there are fewer mistakes and reduced chances of secondary infection and disease, average recovery times go down. Keeping nurses safe and healthy reduces staff being out of work due to illness.
Handwashing and sanitation
Hands should be washed and sanitized before making any contact with a patient. This means your hands must be washed and sanitized every time you go from one patient room to another. While this means a lot of time spent sanitizing, minimizing the risk of transferring infection and disease between patients and preventing nurses from getting sick is critical.
Infections occurring in hospitals are estimated to annually lead to around 99,000 deaths in the US, according to the CDC. The most common form of serious infection is antibiotic-resistant MRSA.
Practice good medication labeling
You can never be too careful when labeling any container with the medication it contains. So many drugs have alternative names associated with them, making mistakes easier. A generic name looks far different than a name brand. Having a good knowledge of the actual drug names and what they are used for is helpful, but with so many different medications available and widely used, you can never be too careful. If there is ever any doubt, it is critical to identify meds before they are given. It is far better to throw them out than risk a possible problem.
Ensure that patients are well-identified
In a busy medical facility, it is essential to take extra measures to ensure that patients are well-identified so there is no chance they get mixed up with someone else. This type of mistake can have deadly consequences if a patient is offered medication or treatment that has not been prescribed for them.
Patient wristbands and identification within a room are essential. Verifying two types of ID before performing any treatments or offering medications will prevent serious errors and reduce the possibility of adverse effects of meds. For serious procedures, always double-check blood type in case a transfusion is needed.
Take time before surgery to verify all information and procedures
Unfortunately, there are more cases of the wrong surgery or procedure being performed than you might think. This number has gone down thanks to many facilities now requiring all info and procedures to be verified right before surgery is to occur. This means the entire surgical team has a chance to verify the case and ensure everyone knows what they are supposed to do. This drastically reduces any surgical errors or mistakes.
Get patients moving as soon as possible
Blood clots are more common in bedridden patients. This is even more of a problem right after surgery. Nurses must encourage patients to perform doctor-approved exercises and physical activity as soon as possible. Simple movement can prevent a lot of blood clots and post-procedure complications. Being warm, friendly, and encouraging is the best approach. Reminding patients that, even though it doesn’t seem like they are doing a lot, they are making giant steps toward taking charge of their recovery is important.
Always wear the appropriate personal protective equipment
When possible, it is essential to wear personal protective gear such as masks, gloves, gowns, etc. It really depends on the situation you are in. Changing out gloves between rooms is essential for preventing the spread of disease and infection. The use of face masks is more common now due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That being said, it is important to wear and use gear correctly. Since wearing gear more often has become standard practice, there has been a trend towards everyone, including medical personnel, slacking when it comes to proper wear. A mask worn below the nose does not offer good protection.
Medical staff should always observe patient requests for proper personal protective gear, even if restrictions at their facility do not require it.
Encourage a high level of communication within medical facilities
Communication is key to providing high patient care and preventing mistakes at any medical facility. It is far easier to catch errors if everyone is on the same page. Many medical facilities use a computer system to make it easy for all medical personnel to see medical records, notes, etc., as they are updated in the system. That means no matter where someone is at a facility, they can look at the records for their next patient well in advance and catch any potential problems.
Taking meticulous notes during patient interactions and after treatments will help avoid future mistakes and allows medical teams to evaluate patients more easily and adjust medications or treatments as needed.
Encourage teamwork and camaraderie among staff
If everyone sees themselves as a critical component of a team, it encourages open communication and a feeling of responsibility to do your part and help others as much as possible. Delegating tasks but, at the same time, promoting a teamwork environment is something all nursing leaders and healthcare administrators should strive for.
Take care of conflicts promptly
Any type of conflict at a medical facility can impact patient and nurse safety. Having a good system for conflict resolution means that conflicts are resolved before they take up valuable resources and time that could be spent offering better care.
Excellent conflict resolution skills are a big help in the world of medicine. Over time you will learn to hone these skills and become better at helping others resolve conflict.
Nurses should ask for help when needed
Trying to do too much yourself or taking on the workload of others happens sometimes, but when it happens too often, and you do not ask for help, it can lead to serious mistakes and burnout.
No one should ever be ridiculed for asking for help when they really need it. In fact, this should be a sign that the nurse or staff member cares a lot about the quality of care offered at their place of work.
Administrators need to take steps to maintain adequate staffing levels at their facilities. This can be challenging given the shortage of medical workers, but there are things that can be done to help with this, such as actively recruiting throughout the country or hosting traveling nurses at times.
Take steps to make sure patient rooms and nurses’ stations are designed with safety in mind
The layout of patient rooms is important for safety. Patients and nurses need clear pathways to get to key areas such as the bathroom or where essential supplies are kept. If patient rooms are designed where there are often things in the way that prevent good movement, it can lead to accidents such as falls, dropping items, and more.
Nurse stations need to be placed where it is easy for nurses to get to patient rooms quickly with minimal navigation hazards. A central location is ideal. While major renovations can take time and cost considerable amounts of money, small changes can often be made that can make a big difference in preventing falls and reducing response times.
Create clear and customized patient discharge instructions
Nurses must emphasize how important it is that a patient follows their discharge instructions and routine. This means offering instructions that are clear and easy to understand. Going over discharge instructions and allowing time for patients and any caregivers to ask questions is important. Taking this time allows caregivers to point out anything they are lacking. For example, medical supplies like a bedside toilet or shower bench may be needed.
Sometimes important medication changes or additions are part of discharge instructions. To avoid mistakes, it is critical to review these updates, so medication is not neglected or given in the wrong dosage.
Consider earning an advanced degree and more skills
The more training and experience a nurse has, the higher the level of care they can offer patients. Accelerated MSN programs can be completed online while keeping a full-time job. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, then you can complete an MSN quickly. Elmhurst University offers a program that allows for graduation in 20 months, even if your prior degree is not in nursing.
You may be able to graduate even faster depending on previous degrees and certifications. Now is a great time to enter the world of healthcare.
Practice safe lifting and patient transport
No one is designed to lift a lot of weight regularly. Nurses must be well-trained in how to transport patients and help them into safe or more comfortable positions. Lifting too much can result in major injury, and over time it can create pain and injuries that need regular treatment. Nurses must have the training, equipment, and extra help they need to safely handle patients who cannot stand or walk independently.
Trying to lift too much weight or offer support to a patient and failing can also result in severe injury to the patient, so it is not worth the risk.
Encourage nursing self-care
Burnout can be a major concern in nursing. This means that nurses must be encouraged to care for their own mental and physical health. Healthy eating and exercise habits are just a start. Nurses need time to decompress and rest. There will inevitably be times in healthcare when workers must work extra hard, but if that becomes the daily routine, then burnout is inevitable no matter how healthy and strong the staff may be.
Healthcare administrators must educate nurses on the importance of self-care and do what they can to contribute to a caring work environment. Making sure that snack machines and cafeterias have healthy, yet fast options is one small way facilities can help. Providing some literature on self-care can also help nurses take charge and create a self-care plan for themselves during their off-duty time.
Have a good system for reporting safety concerns
All medical facilities should have a way for patients and staff to report any safety concerns without fear of repercussions. Yes, there are some people that always have something negative to say, but at the same time, you do not want people not to have a good way to bring legitimate violations and concerns to the attention of the administration.
Comment boxes can be helpful and lend some anonymity if someone is uncomfortable with their identity being known.
Nurses and patients need to have safety guidelines in place to prevent mistakes, infection, and more. By taking some simple steps, a higher level of care can be offered throughout the healthcare system. When patients and nurses are safer, patients recover faster.
Nurse safety is important because it reduces lost work time due to illness and burnout. Nurses can only offer a high level of care if they are healthy and rested.