In my nearly 20 years of experience as a registered nurse, I’ve learned that simple steps make a significant difference. Fast-paced clinical settings make the procedures and protocols that all medical staff are familiar with incredibly important. Proactive steps, as simple as remembering to always wipe down all patient areas and keep them clear of unnecessary or unused supplies, have the ability to keep both patients and medical staff safer.
For nurses, patient safety is fundamental to what we do. It’s the first thing that we think about when we get up in the morning, and the last thing we think about before we go to bed. But no matter what your role in the organization, patient safety must be the priority.
This is especially true when caring for patients with chronic diseases, who are at an even higher risk given their weakened immune systems. At Lung Health Institute, we specialize in treating patients with chronic lung disease, such as COPD and emphysema, and we’re proud to have earned The Joint Commission Gold Seal of Approval® for ambulatory health care accreditation. Because we are continually evaluated, this recognition reflects our longstanding commitment to The Joint Commission’s National Patient Safety Goals focus on identifying patients correctly, using medicines safely, preventing infection and providing appropriate treatment.
Ensuring that vetted protocols and procedures are in place across your organization is the first step to providing the safest environment possible for your patients. Formal accreditation is a great way to ensure this exists, but you should also revisit and review your procedures regularly. Health care is dynamic, and these processes need to constantly evolve along with the industry.
At any stage of the process in your organization, here are a few tips that nurses caring for patients with chronic disease should follow to ensure the safest environments:
- Never stop learning: Best practices and industry standards are always changing, so you should strive to stay on top of the latest and greatest. I would recommend getting involved with local or national nursing organizations and attending any relevant conferences.
- Lend a helping hand: With more young nurses in the field than ever before, experienced nurses need to lead by example, taking the extra time to demonstrate the right procedures and protocols can go a long way.
- Open the doors of communication: Patients are often scared when in a health care setting and taking the time to ask them questions about not only how they’re feeling physically — but mentally — can ensure you’re adjusting treatment plans appropriately and collaborating with physicians in real time to problem solve. A safe environment for patients takes into account both their physical and mental health.
- Slow down and think: It’s incredible how many errors can be prevented by taking the time to think, without rushing through your daily tasks.
- Speak up: If you’ve observed standards and protocols and think something could be done differently, say so. Real life experiences help shape and create the best processes, and every operation is unique and should be tailored appropriately. Following a challenging situation, take the time to debrief with your peers — those more experienced and less experienced than you. Talk about what happened, and how you can work together to make it better or more efficient moving forward. Update procedures and protocols accordingly.