Besides making sure that patients have everything they need to heal, nurses also have to ensure that their patients are safe. Sharon Roth Maguire, MS, RN, GNP-BC, Chief Clinical Quality Officer at BrightStar Care, has an extensive health care background with more than 15 years of experience in the health care field. Maguire works closely with nurses—in addition to having worked as one herself—and she knows how important patient safety is.

Maguire agreed to answer our questions on patient safety in honor of Patient Safety Awareness Week. What follows is an edited version of our interview.

What are some of the most important tips that nurses need to know regarding patient safety?

Nurses are uniquely poised to think of patient safety in a very broad way—emotionally, physically, socially, and environmentally—while simultaneously narrowing it down to the specific care situation. We need to think of our patients comprehensively, especially within in the home. We at BrightStar Care follow the national patient safety goals of the Joint Commission as accredited home care agencies.

Home safety evaluations are essential. What within their home environment could put the client at risk for falling? We need to evaluate adequate lighting, plumbing, furniture that is hazardous as a way of support, throw rugs, etc. Clients who are on oxygen in the home are at a significant risk for potential fire outbreaks. It’s important that the nurse educate clients and their family members on oxygen safety in the home.

Medication safety is a Joint Commission national patient safety goal. BrightStar Care nurses collect information about what medications clients are taking (prescribed and over-the-counter as well as home remedies) and are aware of potential hazards of the actual medication as well as how it interacts with other medications, diet, alcohol, etc. We advise clients and their family care partners about the risks we’ve identified. These interventions are critical to safe medication practices in the home setting.

What should nurses do if they make a mistake that results in possible patient harm/injury?

Nurses are skilled at following policies, process, and procedures, but despite their best efforts, a mistake can be made occasionally. Nurses are taught and held to a standard of high integrity including the importance of reporting any sort of mistake. The worst thing to do would be to hide a mistake. The quicker the mistake is reported and acted on, the quicker the potential negative outcome can be reduced.

What are the most common tips that new nurses should know so that they can keep their patients safe? What about keeping themselves safe?

When in doubt, ask questions. Even though nurses may have gone to school for many years, they might have never had the chance to practice a particular skill. Never hesitate to ask for help. If you’re unsure, don’t think you know something—instead just ask a more experienced nurse. Have a more experienced nurse mentor be your partner when you’re doing something for the first time.

Some patients tend to get scared in the hospital, rehab center, or any place they would be treated by nurses. What can nurses do to alleviate their fears?

Most patients really just want someone that they can trust and feel safe and confide in. Nurses should be reassuring and empathizing while explaining things simply to patients. It’s also important to listen to our patients and understand their concerns. Be kind and be patient.

Don’t let the schedule dictate your response. At the end of the day, your patient is your primary focus and although tasks need to be done, that shouldn’t be at the expense of your patient. Patient safety, comfort, and peace of mind are top priorities.

Is there any other important information regarding patient safety awareness that nurses should know?

Safety is so extremely important. Nurses should slow down, take time to understand what is required to be safe—whether that’s when performing a procedure, giving a medication, or reading physician orders. Safety is paramount in the world of a nurse especially in the nurse-patient relationship.

Michele Wojciechowski

Michele Wojciechowski is an award-winning writer and author of the humor book Next Time I Move, They’ll Carry Me Out in a Box.

Latest posts by Michele Wojciechowski (see all)

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