Happy Patient Safety Awareness Week from CareerStaff! Every year, we celebrate the second full week of March with a special focus on keeping patients safe. And because there’s no one better at patient safety than nurses, here’s a special look at what each and every nursing professional can do to help support the cause of improving patient safety in nursing.
6 Tips to Improve Patient Safety in Nursing
As the people with the closest contact with patients, nurses are literally on the front lines of patient safety. With that in mind, here are a few things every nurse can do to help make sure that the care they provide is as safe as possible.
#1: Double-check for errors
A big part of supporting patient safety is keeping a close eye on medical errors. Experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine have calculated that those errors cause more than 250,000 deaths each year in the United States. If that’s correct, medical errors would be the third biggest cause of death in the country.
Of course, not all medical errors are caused by caregivers. Problems with equipment, technology and systems are also factors. “It’s the system more than the individuals that is to blame,” as the Johns Hopkins study’s lead researcher wrote in a letter to the CDC.
All the same, it’s important for nurses to double-check to make sure their patients are getting the right treatment at the right time, especially medications. That’s especially true of nurse managers, who should work to ensure that their teams are following the medical treatment plan for each patient. But it’s also true for pretty much any other nursing professional, including assistants and aides.
- Pro tip: Work with your team to create a patient safety checklist for everyone to follow.
#2: Take safety policies seriously
Supporting patient safety in nursing means taking rules and protocols seriously. Each facility has policies to follow around infection control, fall prevention, patient handoffs and other key areas of safety. Not only should each nurse make sure they follow these rules, but they should also make a point of avoiding any cut corners. If everyone takes the culture of safety seriously, errors are much less likely to happen.
- Pro tip: Be a vocal supporter of patient safety policies, and chances are good that you’ll inspire your coworkers to do the same!
#3: Focus on communication and education
Errors in medication happen in about half of all patients after they’re discharged, according to researchers at the Mayo Clinic. And, while another study found that those errors are usually caused by flaws in the system rather than human error, it’s still a big enough problem to require extra close attention from nurses.
Some ways to help reduce this kind of error is to make sure that drug orders are communicated clearly at all levels. This could be double-checking to see if a patient received the right medication prescribed by a doctor, for instance, without any common issues like misunderstood handwriting.
Education is also key. Don’t assume patients understand that it’s important for them to take their medication at the right time! They may forget, or simply not feel engaged enough to follow through on their own.
- Pro tip: Make a point of working with patients to make sure they understand what their treatment requires. Let them know that post-discharge care is just as important as their time in a facility.
#4: Encourage patients to engage
One way to encourage education while also promoting safety is by getting patients to engage. After all, if they’re paying closer attention to their own health, they’ll be more likely to let you know if something is wrong. Hopefully, each facility will have its own plan for patient engagement. But it can still be helpful to take your own steps to help improve engagement with the people you work with.
Today, the widespread use of mHealth devices and remote care technology makes patient engagement an easier job than it’s ever been before. Nurses can embrace this technology to help patients along the path to engagement. Even if it’s just keeping track of their steps at first, this can be a great beginning to a new awareness of their own well being — the kind that helps you in your job of keeping them safe.
If you’re not sure if you have the skills you need to engage patients, you might want to consider taking a continuing education (CE) class to emphasize those skills. Engagement is a standard part of case manager certification, but you may also be able to find classes in your area or online that are even more focused on engagement.
- Pro tip: Click here to search patient engagement CE classes in your area.
#5: Listen to patients, and take their concerns seriously
Patients today are encouraged to ask more questions about safety to their care providers than in the past. So, it’s good to be prepared! That doesn’t mean you need to answer every question, but you should make sure they’re passed along to someone who can. Even if the concern seems minor, it can help avoid the kind of frustration that makes engagement even harder.
And when patients tell you they have specific concerns, listen to them. It seems simple, but it can be tough, especially if what they’re saying puts you on the defensive. Listening helps engage them. It also helps you discover any issues that could affect their health outcomes.
- Pro tip: If there isn’t a process in place for passing along patient concerns, ask your manager about creating one.
#6: Practice self-care
Many nurses experience burnout, sometimes on a regular basis. It’s a stressful job, and there’s no shame in taking a break to focus on your own wellbeing. After all, burnt-out workers are more likely to make mistakes. If you’re feeling stressed, here are some steps you can take to cope in a healthy way. And don’t miss our list of self-care tips for nurses for more help dealing with stress and burnout.
- Pro tip: Help ease the stress of day-to-day-nursing with our 17 self-care tips for clinical workers.
Help Support Patient Safety with a New Nursing Job
In the market for a new nursing assignment? As the nation’s leading nurse job network, you can trust CareerStaff to help connect you with the opportunity you’re looking for! Check out all of our open nursing jobs here. Or, fill out a quick application and a recruiter will reach out to you.