Why is Patient Safety in Its Own Bucket?
March 17, 2017
I have always wondered why patient safety is talked about by itself.
As if all other procedures, policies, and practices are not about safety. And why should patient safety be separate from the patient experience?
For staff, patient safety is a lot like playing in tune for a musician. Because regardless of how much technique, fluency, knowledge, years, or whatever else one can claim, if a musician doesn’t play in tune, it’s tragic — both for the music and the audience.
Likewise, whatever is careless, neglected, or sloppy in a way that puts patients at risk, can lead to a tragedy.
More Parallels Between Patient Safety & Music
Also, the impact of germs and bacteria on infection control was proven about the same time that musicians added vibrato to their playing technique. Vibrato is the process of de-tuning a note at a fast enough pace as to be perceived as one pitch. And, it is pleasant to our ear.
The parallel to vibrato in the patient experience is the idea of keeping a patient safe while respecting their values, preferences, and individual needs. Thus, safety needs to also be about comfort, trust, and our integrity.
If neglected, patient safety is at risk everywhere. And, it crosses all job descriptions.
If someone sees something that could lead to a fall, like a cart not pushed to the wall, a chair too near where the patient may need to get up, or a wet spot on the floor — that person needs to take action to eliminate the risk.
Noise is also a risk factor. It prevents clarity in communication. It’s distracting to a patient who may be slightly off balance. It will mask details in critical conversations between a physician and nurse or anyone else. It’s auditory clutter.
Stop, Look, and Listen!
Without question, this trilogy of “do’s” are what we teach kids when we want them to learn to safely cross the street. And, these offer a good way to do a quick safety scan.
Stop, look around, and notice what you hear. Is everything you see and hear appropriate to patient safety?
Doing a safety scan is stopping to take notice of everything — looking for what stands out, what is not right, and what needs attention. It takes but a few moments — any longer and you will hone in on the normal.
This is true regardless of anyone’s job description or position. Take notice. Act appropriately in ensuring safety.
Every Week is Patient Safety Week
This week is National Patient Safety Awareness Week. However, every week, every day, every hour should be focused on patient safety. Falls and medical errors know no calendar dates, holidays, or vacations.
Patient safety is in each policy and practice at many hospitals. But, if it isn’t already at the top of your hospital’s to-do list, it should be, with specific risks identified for each practice.
For a musician, every note offers a chance to play out of tune as much as to play in tune. The same is true of front-line staff when it comes to patient safety. Except the stakes are much higher.
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