Connecting Emotional Intelligence, Team Communication, and Patient Safety

An Early-Career Nursing Memory

Photo by Barry Diomede/Albany Stock Photo.

Many years ago, fresh out of nursing school, I was in charge one night, with no other RNs on the unit. We had an “active GI bleeder” who needed hourly boluses of either ice water or iced milk through an NG tube. (Yes, the standard treatment at that time was gruesomely uncomfortable for the patient, and in later years determined to be counterproductive.) I had more than a dozen other patients to care for, but everyone got their meds and, miraculously, the bleeding man made it through the night.

When my supervisor made rounds at the end of the shift, I reported that all was well and that my critical patient had survived. Her only response: “Mrs. Todd! There is blood on your shoes!”

This senior nurse, standing there in her starched whites and impeccable shoes, didn’t recognize that I had feared I would be inadequate to the task, or even acknowledge my pride as a brand-new nurse in actually saving someone’s life. In retrospect, I can’t help wondering if her choice to focus on a superficial fact, irrelevant to the crisis, could be interpreted as an indication that she lacked a certain acuteness of emotional […]

2017-07-17T16:49:20+00:00 July 17th, 2017|Nursing, patient safety|1 Comment

Viewpoint: A Limitation of Preprocedure Checklists

I once worked at a hospital where some of the surgeons regarded safety checklists as an inconvenience. They saw them as bothersome intrusions by the nursing staff into the surgical suite. One OR nurse was even “counselled” by her supervisor (in the presence of the complaining surgeon) to avoid upsetting the doctors by using the preprocedure time-out.

How important are these tools? Are we using them well, or do we speed through them as rote exercises? Might we even expect too much of them? In AJN’s July Viewpoint, nurse Elizabeth Anne Crooks relates a frightening episode (she was the patient) that led her to think about time-outs in a different way.

Crooks was about to undergo a colonoscopy. The clinical team seemed relatively unconcerned about her bradycardia, which was a significant change from her normal heart rate. After completing the usual time-out protocol, sedation was initiated and the physician began the procedure. Suddenly, Crooks’ heart rate and blood pressure dropped precipitously.

I remember waking in distress and hearing the monitor alarming. The team was working rapidly to stabilize me with fluids and medications.

A routine procedure had suddenly become an emergency.

In reflecting upon her experience, Crooks wonders whether the preprocedure time-out may have given her clinical team a false sense of security—one that led them to downplay a clinically significant change. And yet, as we know, these time-outs focus on ensuring that the correct patient is receiving the correct procedure, and not on other safety […]

Nurses vs. Computers: Predicting Risk of Patient Harm

Not All Signs of Potential Harm Are Quantifiable

From chego101, via Flickr

Hospital nurses have many, many responsibilities and tasks, but one of the most important is to ensure patient safety by assessing patients for changes that can signal worsening of a condition or a new potential harm. Creating special units like ICUs, recovery rooms, and step-down units; flags on charts; various alarmed monitors; and safety huddles are a few of the ways hospitals have tried to identify potential problems. Now we have computerized tools to do this—or do we?

The complaint I have heard most from nurses about the electronic health record (EHR) is its inability to capture all the nuances of patient care or various patient problems, especially those that don’t involve easily quantifiable measures like heart rate or lab values. (For more detail, read our November 2016 report on nurses’ concerns with EHRs.)

One cannot accurately use a check mark to convey certain patient behavioral parameters or the “can’t put my finger on it but something’s going on with this patient” assessment that experienced nurses often make. In the April issue of AJN, we published an important study that investigates just this issue: “Identifying Hospitalized Patients at Risk for Harm: A Comparison of Nurse Perceptions vs. Electronic Risk Assessment Tool Scores

Deciding Whether to Implement an Electronic Risk Tool

Researchers […]

Nurses and Patient Safety: Parallel Histories

Photo from AJN archives.

I’m especially pleased that one of the CE articles in the February issue focuses on nursing’s role in creating a safe environment for patients: “Nursing’s Evolving Role in Patient Safety.” And in full disclosure, I was excited to see that the authors used the AJN archives to chronicle how nursing addressed (or didn’t address) safety issues around patient care.

From the earliest days of nursing through to the current complex systems in which we practice, nurses have been the health professionals responsible for ensuring safe passage of patients through the health care system. From Nightingale’s criteria for creating a healing environment to the “5 rights of medication administration,” patients rely on nurses to act as sentinels.

The authors reviewed 1,086 AJN articles from 1900 to 2015 and conducted a content analysis to identify patient safety themes. Aside from uncovering many fascinating (and sometimes alarming!) details of former health care practices, the authors drew this general conclusion:

“Emphasis on patient safety increased as patient care became more complex. As nurses developed a professional identity, they often put a spotlight on safety concerns and solutions.”

Here’s a quote from a nurse who wrote in 1908 about nurses’ duties: […]

Nurse-Led Evidence-Based Sleep Program Helps Hospitals and New Mothers Keep Babies Safe

Photo © Associated Press. Photo © Associated Press.

I can remember, when I was pregnant, reading everything I could get my hands on about every mother’s fear—sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). My mother, who followed the norms of her time when I was born, was surprised that my son’s crib was bare—no blankets, pillows, toys, or bumpers. He wore a sleep sack and was placed on his back to sleep until he began to roll over by himself.

To add to what I learned from my preparatory reading, the nurses at the hospital I gave birth in set a standard for how to care for my newborn—explaining the abovementioned safe sleep tips, and much more. After all, nurses are probably a mom’s first stop for this information, helping new mothers navigate the choppy waters of caring for their newborns.

This month’s Cultivating Quality article, “An Evidence-Based Infant Safe Sleep […]

2016-11-21T13:00:48+00:00 November 18th, 2016|Nursing, patient safety, pediatrics|11 Comments