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Patient safety has gotten a lot of attention since the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report in 1999 stating that medical errors might cause as many as 98,000 deaths per year in the United States.
In 2004, the IOM followed up with Keeping Patients Safe: Transforming the Work Environment of Nurses. In this report, the IOM identified nurses as the key to correcting systemwide flaws and recommended giving us the support we need to catch errors before they reach our patients.
Recognizing assessment and vigilance as nursing's foundation, the IOM identified us as "rescuers" who take steps to correct problems. But that's possible only if we have opportunities to identify problems and encouragement to report them.
An encouraging, nonpunitive approach to error reporting is essential because nurses are in the uncomfortable position of being on the "sharp end" of errors. Although many flaws throughout the system may contribute to an error, a nurse who's the last stop before the error reaches the patient may take the fall for it.
From the bedside, you see what goes on. That's why we'd like to hear what you have to say about patient safety, including why errors occur and what nurses can do to prevent them.
On the next two pages, we're presenting a wide-ranging patient-safety survey sponsored by the B. Braun company. Please take a few minutes to fill it out and send it to us. Encourage your colleagues to participate too. Tell us about the conditions and culture at your workplace. Does the administration support a culture of safety? Is the response to error reporting positive or punitive? Are you encouraged to speak up about latent risks before someone gets hurt?
We'll publish the survey results in an upcoming issue of Nursing, along with the latest patient-safety recommendations and guidelines from government and health care watchdog organizations. In the past, our survey results have provided a benchmark for improvements. For example, we've learned that hospital administrators and staff-development educators have used the results of a pain survey we published in 2002 to evaluate pain management in their facilities and to fill any gaps.
Facilities can no longer get away with sweeping unsafe conditions under the rug. Add your voice to the rising demand for safer conditions for our patients. Their lives are in our hands.
Cheryl L. Mee, RN,BC, CMSRN, MSN
Editor-in-Chief, Nursing2005 email@example.com
Institute of Medicine. Keeping Patients Safe: Transforming the Work Environment of Nurses. Washington, D.C., National Academies Press, 2004.
Institute of Medicine. To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System. Washington, D.C., National Academies Press, 2000.
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