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Would you report an error?



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We as nurses have been told time and time again there should be no fear of reporting medical errors. We are told in our hospital orientations as well as during all of our years of nursing education that there is no retaliation to reporting a medical error. Reporting an error increases patient safety, we all know that. I believe we all agree with that premise, but do you really think your professional career is not at risk if you are the one submitting the report. Is there really no report retaliation?
I’m asking a hypothetical question here. I’m not disputing, arguing, defending or defaming any particular facility or individual. I’m simply curious as to what is the nursing community’s consensus on reporting medical errors? Are you really free of fear?

I’m referring to any type of error. Is there really such thing as a ‘small’ error when it refers to patient safety? Who are we to decide when an error or mistake is allowable.

It’s quite the clash isn’t it? Here you are as a professional doing your best to ‘do no harm’. It’s our job to advocate for the patient, for all patients. We are given the responsibility to ‘speak’ for the patient, especially when the patient cannot speak for themselves. It’s the ultimate burden for those that don’t practice this skill.

On the other side of the coin is self-preservation. We love our job (most of us). We love practicing as a nurse. We love making the difference. We of course *AHEM*.. love to be employed too. We do enjoy paying our bills and having a steady income, especially in this tough economy!

So what if you had to choose? Patient advocacy or your job? Now, remember this is purely hypothetical. Because we have all been taught, trained and tirelessly educated on the ‘no report retaliation’ concept. It’s our job to report the errors- and we won’t lose out jobs for reporting.

I may be embellishing a little here, I admit it. But what if?

While we’re being honest here, lets not forget that there are other health care professionals out there that have lost their jobs for doing this very thing (see the link articles referenced below).

This fear of retaliation is very real. And whether we or any other health care professional will openly or publicly admit to it, this fear motivates our decision making skills, hypothetical or not.

Articles of interest:

Nurse Perceptions of Medication Errors: What We Need to Know for Patient Safety

Medical Error Self-Reporting Stifled by Fears of Retaliation

Northwestern U. Dismisses Medical Professor Who Questioned Cardiac-Surgery Chief’s Safety Record

Cardiologist Who Accused Famed Surgeon of Misconduct Is Fired by Northwestern University

AHRQ: Patient Safety & Medical Errors

FDA: Medication Errors

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