Patient Safety is one of the core responsibilities of nurses. In a healthcare facility where there is a culture of safety, nurses play a vital role in speaking up when there is a safety hazard. If a nurse doesn't report unsafe situations, patients are left at risk.
In a healthcare organization that has a fully functional safety culture, everyone in the organization is engaged in safety. Nurses are on the front-line of this initiative because they are hands-on with all aspects of healthcare from patient mobility to the way machines are plugged in for physicians. They must constantly be aware of their surroundings and encourage each other to create safe working conditions and support their co-workers in reporting anything they see that makes them uncomfortable.
Don't Wait for Safety Policies, Create Safety Policies
In facilities where the culture has not yet been established, you'll still see policies around specific safety concerns like hand hygiene or patient falls but there isn't complete buy-in from all employees about a culture of safety many unsafe scenarios will go unreported. In these cases, it may be a problem with the administrators creating a plan for acheiving facility-wide acceptance of the safety standards however, nurses don't need to wait for policies from management to start a culture of safety. When a nursing team is devoted to a safety culture in their environment, they can motivate and change the perception of safety standards of those around them and influence policy of the facility when needed.
When it is hard to speak up
Nurses new to an organization, just out of school or those who have been working for years in an environment with certain communication standards may find it difficult to report safety concerns with assertiveness. New nurses may doubt their judgement of certain cases. Others may have not had positive responses when reporting things in the past and are gunshy to try again. Some facilties may have established a process for submitting concerns that is not effective, taking too long to address problems.
Nurses are the safety net for patients. They see the subtle nuances of treatment and they recognize when care isn't the way it should be. The key is to not let recurring instances of unsafe situations, no matter how small, let you become numb to it or turn a blind eye. Start by being an agent of change and a role model for others by performing all tasks under your control with the highest safety standards in mind. Next, report all cases of unsafe situations. Document your reports by submitting them in writing. In your report, be sure to state how the safety concern directly affects the patient and how it can be performed in a safe manner. Repeat the report of the same unsafe situation each time you see it until it has been addressed.
Healthcare Organizations that have an established Culture of Safety
Organizations that have great success with high safety standards have adopted a safety culture as one of their core missions. Every individual in the organization understands just how important it is and how it effects patient outcomes. When anyone on staff sees something of concern, they know they can stop anyone... an administrator, a manager, a chief of staff or a physician to let them know when they feel uncomfortable with something that seems unsafe and that person will take immediate action to address the situation. This sort of positive response to a safety concern encourages more frequent reports and raises the bar for safety for everyone on staff.
by Linda Bright
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