March 12-18 of this year is National Patient Safety Awareness week. This week was established by the NPSF – National Patient Safety Foundation, in an attempt to raise awareness about proper methods, procedures, and processes to ensure patient safety in clinics, hospitals, and other medical facilities.
If you’d like to get involved, there are numerous resources on the NPSF website – downloadable campaign materials, social media links and resources, and discussion forums where you can join others in talking about the importance of patient safety.
To raise awareness about simple steps that nurses, doctors, and health centers as a whole, can take to ensure that patients stay safe, we’ve put together a list of 5 simple steps you can take as a nurse to improve patient safety in your hospital, and create a culture of safety at your facility.
- Wash Those Hands!
This one should come as no surprise – but surprisingly, many nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals fall short of handwashing best practices. According to the CDC, it is estimated that only 39% of medical staff wash their hands enough to fall within hospital best practices.
Your hospital and your staff should take every step possible to perform smart, effective hand hygiene best practices, including regular washing after each patient visit, bedside alcohol rubs, and availability of clean, sterile gloves at patient bedsides.
1 in 25 patients who come into a hospital will get an infection – and washing your hands is a great way to bring those numbers down, and ensure a safer environment for your patients.
- Use Barrier Precautions – And Prevent Infection
Nosocomial infections can spread extremely rapidly in hospitals if their source is not immediately diagnosed and handled correctly. If you have a patient with a serious hospital-based infection such as Enterococcus, adequate precautions should be taken to ensure that you don’t spread the infection.
This includes disposable gowns and gloves, disposable equipment, and other barrier precautions that reduce risk of transmission – as well as thorough and comprehensive handwashing after treating a patient.
When implemented correctly, these procedures can have a huge effect on reducing infections including Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus, and lead to fewer outbreaks of nosocomial infections.
- Use Best Practices To Prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep Vein Thrombosis is a silent killer in hospitals. Like bed sores, DVT is often caused by patients being unable to move around for long periods of time, causing dangerous blood clots to form, most commonly in their legs. 350,000-600,000 Americans develop this condition every year – and it kills nearly 100,000 people annually.
Treatment to prevent DVT includes both medicinal and mechanical methods – heparins such as enoxaparin and warfarin can help thin the blood and prevent DVT, while medical devices like compression stockings and medical compression devices can increase blood flow and reduce the risk of a patient developing DVT
It’s also important to be aware of patient risk factors that may lend to developing DVT, such as smoking or obesity – these patients may need earlier prophylactic treatment to ensure they do not develop DVT.
- Beware Of Pressure Ulcers
Despite the honest attempts of nurses everywhere to prevent them, pressure ulcers are a fact of life in a hospital – and can lead to poor patient outcomes, if not prevented or treated properly. Over 60,000 Americans will die this year from hospital-related pressure ulcers, and about 2.5 million will be affected by bedsores.
Of course, the best way to treat pressure ulcers is by preventing them from forming. Continual assessment of patients is required as you bathe them – be on the lookout for “hot spots” that may be at risk for developing into full-fledged bed sores.
In addition, patients should be turned regularly, have their incontinence issues managed efficiently to prevent fluid buildup, and have their nourishment needs analyzed to ensure that their skin is receiving the vitamins it needs to remain healthy during their hospital stay.
- Avoid UTIs With Catheter Best Practices
Urinary Tract Infections are quite common among hospital patients – there are around 1 million cases per year in America – and can be quite deleterious to patient safety. The best way to avoid UTIs is by reducing the number of catheters used – it has been estimated that nearly 21% of catheters are used inappropriately, or as a substitute for extra nursing care.
Leaving a catheter in for an extended period of time greatly increases the risk of a patient developing a UTI.
You should have systems in place to remind you of previous catheter placements every day – and you should be able to re-assess the patient’s situation, and determine whether or not a catheter is still necessary. If at all possible, that catheter should be removed, and other incontinence care such as diapers and pads used instead, if still required.
Doing so will greatly reduce the risk of a patient contracting a UTI, and lead to better health outcomes.
Follow These Steps To Keep Your Facility Hygienic and Free From Spreading Infection!
Hospitals are for the sick to get better – not for the sick to get sicker. By following these simple steps, you can greatly increase the safety of patients under your care, reduce the risk of transmitting hospital-based infections, and give your patients a more smooth, pain-free hospital stay. And who doesn’t want that?