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:

“Not only must she be fully trained to care for patients who are doing well . . . , but she must know the danger and complications likely to arise and be able to guard against them, and report the earliest symptoms of such changes, and should emergencies arise be able to do the right thing, at the right time, till the doctor arrives.”

The article is available for free. You can also listen to a short podcast with the authors.

Editor-in-chief, AJN

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