Patient Safety Is Especially Important in Current Times

Patient Safety Is Especially Important in Current Times

With COVID-19 making a rapid advance across the globe, this week’s recognition of Patient Safety Awareness Week draws attention to a critical subject.

Sponsored by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), nurses can use the week to learn new standards and practices, especially in light of COVID-19, and can also educate patients and their caregivers on how to protect themselves across the healthcare spectrum.

Although patients and the healthcare workforce expect and strive to keep adverse health incidents to a minimum, negative events do happen. According to the World Health Organization, patient safety is a “serious global health concern.” The organization reports that the “risk of patient death occurring due to a preventable medical accident, while receiving health care, is estimated to be 1 in 300.”

The numbers are especially alarming when patients and healthcare workers realize those numbers are attributed to preventable events and mistakes. As a nurse, you know lives depend on you paying attention to everything you do. Your patients and colleagues depend on your high-quality care and top-notch performance every single day you’re at work. With those kinds of standards, nurses know patient safety is a top priority.

Patient safety has a clear spillover impact into other areas of healthcare—workplace safety in particular. When patient safety is compromised, nurses’ safety is compromised. And it doesn’t take much to create unsafe situations.

Think of these examples:

  • Moving a patient without proper equipment or sufficient staff. As a result, the patient is exposed to a risk of falling and the nurse is now more likely to have a physical injury from trying to move the patient in unsafe circumstances.
  • Sharps or equipment being improperly stored or disposed of exposes patients and nurses to disease and injury
  • Medication errors because there is no established process for reducing error
  • Infections due to lack of proper hygiene

As a nurse, you can take steps every day to ensure and promote patient safety.

  • If you notice a process that could become or already is creating a safety concern, address it with your supervisor.
  • Make sure your attention to safety never wavers and notice when you feel distracted.
  • Ask for continual professional development opportunities around patient safety.
  • Propose a process or standard plan around high-risk activities so that it becomes a standard care plan in your organization.
  • Take care of yourself by getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, eating nutritious foods, and managing your stress.
  • Practice immaculate personal hygiene and encourage it in your colleagues and in your patients and their caregivers. Thorough hand washing protects everyone.
  • Lobby for patient and healthcare worker safety in local and national government and in organizations. Even a simple letter to a representative or supporting a professional organization that works for these issues can help.

Becoming an advocate for patient safety is part of any nurse’s focus. In your daily work, spread the word and educate anyone who will listen. Talk about patient safety to peers, colleagues, patients, family members, and other caregivers. Raising awareness with simple and continual discussion can make a significant impact—in the lives of your patients and in your own life.

For your own way to mark this week, join the IHI’s free webinar Principles for Improving Patient Safety Measurement, on
March 10,  12:00 PM  – 1:00 PM ET. Registration is required.

2020 Is the Year of the Nurse

2020 Is the Year of the Nurse

The World Health Organization designated 2020 as The Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. What does that mean for nurses everywhere?

The designation was made last year by WHO to help raise awareness of the nursing and midwifery professions and also to call attention to global health. Nurses and midwives, says WHO, are critical components for improving the health of people worldwide. By calling attention to the nurses and midwives who take care of people every day, it’s also shining a light on disparities that exist and that nurses are helping to bridge.

What makes 2020’s Year of the Nurse and the Midwife so special? It happens to be the 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of the nursing profession. And 2020 is also the end year for several campaigns around nursing—the Institute of Medicine’s proposed goal for having 80 percent of nurses having earned a bachelor degree and WHO’s own three-year NursingNow! campaign that ends in 2020. NursingNow! focuses on how raising global health will raise the state of nursing and help support essential policies around nursing.

This year also marks the year WHO is developing a State of the World’s Nursing Report to be presented at the 73rd World Health Assembly to be held May 17 to 20 in Geneva. The organization is also contributing to a State of the World’s Midwifery 2020 report that will be released this spring.

As more attention is focused on the nursing profession and the role nurses play in offering primary care around the globe, the more strategic decisions will focus on strengthening the nursing industry and supporting nurses and midwives in their roles. The hope is that focus will bring an influx of funding into more research, career supports, and adding new or strengthening existing policies to protect nurses, midwives, and patients. With these positive and effective changes started, the path is paved for better working conditions, more nurses in the field, a more diverse and inclusive workforce to represent patient populations, and improved patient health.

As a force of global change, nurses will play a pivotal role in helping achieve the WHO goal of universal health coverage and contribute to the global Sustainable Development Goals presented by the United Nations.

As a goal, the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife is on target for what professional nurses need and want to hear and have action taken on. But the designation also speaks to the state of global health and the pivotal role nurses and midwives play in keeping humanity healthy, despite some declining rates of nurses.

Nurses work in all conditions in some of the most remote corners of the world to ensure that no matter where people live and no matter what conditions they live in, that they will be able to achieve the best health possible. That alone is a lofty goal and one that nurses get up every day and just do. At the very least, nurses deserve a year dedicated to the impact they bring. Let’s hope the Year of the Nurse brings the change nurses deserve.

ASQ Toolkit Helps Identify Youth at Risk for Suicide

ASQ Toolkit Helps Identify Youth at Risk for Suicide

With suicide rates rising and an alarming number of teens and young adults at serious risk for suicide, many health professionals are not fully prepared to  recognize a patient’s psychiatric difficulties. A team of researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) recently came up with the ASQ Toolkit, a simple four-question survey for health professionals to help identify and get help for at-risk youth.

NIMH’s Division of Intramural Research Programs created the free Ask Suicide-Screening Questions (ASQ) Toolkit that can be used in various medical settings. According to the NIMH, the toolkit (available in many languages) is easy to use, making it effective in many settings including emergency departments, outpatient clinics, primary care offices, and inpatient medical/surgical units.

Before using the toolkit, organizations must have a plan in place to have a standard set of effective next steps for patients who do test with an outcome that indicates they are at risk. Whether that is a further evaluation with an on-site mental health counselor or another trained professional, the toolkit isn’t meant to be used without a follow-up plan.

No matter what their area of practice or setting, nurses and physicians can quickly assess patients by asking the four questions in the toolkit. If a patient answers yes to any of the questions, it’s a red flag for the medical professionals to consider the patient at risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors. From there, the toolkit offers guidance on the next steps that will be most helpful for the patient and will also help them access the help they need.

Gaining this extra knowledge is essential skill to have no matter who your general patient population is. According to the World Health Organization,  “Suicide accounted for 1.4% of all deaths worldwide, making it the 17th leading cause of death in 2015.” With such astounding facts, it’s imperative that nurses are able to have the tools to support them in identifying youth who might be at-risk. To help that, the toolkit even offers scripts like this nursing script for emergency room settings or this nursing script for inpatient medical/surgical settings.

The toolkit’s importance is highlighted in the rising numbers of youth who die by suicide. But underneath those shocking numbers are the hidden numbers of even greater numbers of people who are suffering with thoughts of suicide or even attempts at suicide. In fact, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention estimates that for each person who dies from suicide (all ages), 25 more make a suicide attempt. Early intervention by healthcare professionals who can identify the risk and then have the resources to help the patient can be a turning point for the youth.

The ASQ Toolkit is only one resource for nurses to use in helping patients in a mental-health crisis or who are suffering from long-term suicidal ideation. With proper steps in place to help patients who do screen positive, it is also a potentially life-saving tool that healthcare setting and organizations might find worth investigating.