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Welcome to Safety First Nursing and my fourth blog/podcast. This one is just a short summary of my first continuing education activity: Safe Medication Administration: Everything you need to know to improve your practice. You can find the full-length video, podcast and transcript on my website, but just in case you don’t have an hour, I really wanted to give you the checklist info, because that’s the pay-off.
The mission of SFN is to support the physical, psychological and emotional safety of patients and nurses through education, research and resources. I started SFN after being involved with a patient safety incident at my former job, and I was actually going write on that for episode 4, but I found myself being drawn to something light and easy. After the huge amount of work I put into episode 3, on continuing education, including a review of sites that offer patient safety courses, I needed a break before the psychic challenge of finding a way of telling you about the patient safety incident I was involved in. I want it to be honest, and I want you to still trust me when I am done. I am not sure that is possible, but it’s my goal, so stay tuned, and I will very much look forward to having it done and out there so I can hear back from you. What I really hope to do is start a conversation about nurses involved in errors, near misses, mistakes and “incidents”. I want to talk about the emotional and psychological impact being involved in all that stuff lays on you – it can be incredibly painful, and incredibly isolating – we don’t want to talk about it because we are ashamed, because we are worried someone will judge us. Because we know, deep down, that the first thing most nurses think when they hear someone else made a mistake is, “she wasn’t trying hard enough” or “bad nurse”. Golly, I can’t wait to get started! But seriously, I know it will be healing to write about it…just need to get the first words on the page.
I’m going to offer a wide variety of presentations on safety, some of them for patients and nurses, but also some for anyone interested in the concept of safety. Some of the presentations on my website are geared towards nurses looking for high-quality continuing education on the topic of patient safety – like the one on safe medication administration: everything you need to know to improve your practice, which is available for one CE, and one on how to do Root Cause Analysis is coming soon. Others, like episode #2 on my relationship to nursing in Haiti would be of interest to anyone interested in patient safety. I’m gearing up to do some interviews, and very much want to hear from you about topics you are interested in – do you have something you would like to share? Please contact me through my website at www.safetyfirstnursing.com, or email me at email@example.com, I am on twitter @safetyfirstNRS, facebook, linked-in and instagram.
So I am going to give you a quick summary of the continuing education activity about safe medication administration and then direct you to all the good resources and checklists I have created. The activity is worth 1 CE and is available as a podcast, video and transcript – and should take just over an hour to listen to or watch. In it I review the impact of medical error on the healthcare system, including the new proposition that medical error may be the third leading cause of death if we look at the numbers from a fresh perspective. I also talk about why medication errors occur, and how nurses are involved, as well as the impact on patients, families and healthcare providers. I talk a great deal about systems issues, with the goal of helping people understand that error is going to happen, no matter what we do to prevent it, and the best we can hope for is to prevent harm. The best part of the study is the discussion of solutions and strategies focused on preventing harm. The strategies focus on what systems theorists call “the blunt end of the stick” – the end where changes in policies, technology and leadership can prevent the likelihood an error will occur; as opposed to “the sharp end of the stick” – the end where nurses actually make mistakes with sometimes horrible consequences. Firing the nurse has been the traditional response, with little effect on error rates. I present definitions (confusing and conflicting), how error is measured (poorly and inconsistently) and the complexity of the task of medication administration (truly mind-boggling). James Reasons theory of “Swiss Cheese” is discussed, with illustrations to show how plugging the holes in the cheese can prevent harm from error. Using case studies from literature, and the most up-to-date resources from the best patient safety organizations (see my resource list), I present how a change in perspective from blame and shame, to one of a just culture can reduce the risk of harm to patients. I present several tools to assess blameworthy behavior, an important first step in dealing with error, as well as multiple checklists that address the many holes in the “Swiss Cheese”. I have been reading Gawande’s “The Checklist Manifesto” (2010) and have take his advice to make some checklists. There is even a checklist for Nurse educators, based on my 2016 publication: Educational Strategies for Reducing Medication Errors Committed By Student Nurses: A Literature Review from the International Journal of Health Sciences Education
I hope you will use the resource list, the checklists, the references and all of the information presented in the full continuing education activity. Most of all, I hope you will participate in some discussion! I would like to know what I left off the checklists, what I missed, what I messed up, and what I can add to support patient safety. As your ideas and suggestions come in, I will make edits and revisions as needed and send out new and improved checklists as we co-create a safer world for patients.
Wanted to give you an update on Rose, the wonderful woman that SFN is sending to nursing school. You may recall from episode 1 about Haiti that Rose is an orphan. She shared with me that her mother died from complication due to diabetes and hypertension. During my two visits to Haiti as a nurse at multiple mobile clinics, about 50% of the people we saw had some combination of diabetes and hypertension. You can’t tell someone whose main diet is starch to eat “low carb” – protein is a rare and highly valued commodity, and not something widely available to Haitians. You also can’t expect them to reduce sugar and salt intake – two relatively inexpensive and widely available substances that make a Haitian’s day a little brighter. And don’t get me started on medications – when you don’t have a regular food source, purchasing medications isn’t on your to-do list. Rose’s mother would be alive if she lived in the US, because we could feed her good food, give her some metformin, and some ACTZ and get her blood pressure down. It is so frustrating. Her father died of a broken heart. He was a farmer and often worked in the fields around the clock ensuring his crops had enough water to grow – irrigation is a HUGE issue in Haiti – the weather is amazing for growing plants, but there is no way to irrigate the fields – no pumps, no way to dig wells. He became paralyzed – still getting the full story – and slowly wasted away lying in bed, wishing he was out in the field working. Last but not least, in episode 1, Rose told us a story about her friend Sandra – the little girl she helped by buying her some clothes. I asked about Sandra and found out she died in the Earthquake in 2010. I wish I had some good news. I guess the only good news is that Rose has some hope. She is getting English lessons, and will be going to nursing school in the fall. Remember, SFN donates 10% of all profits to Rose’s education through Consider Haiti. I hope you will consider a donation as well.