Nurses ARE the Safety Net!

nurses-are-the-safety-nets.PNGThis year’s Nurses Week theme focuses on safety – “Culture of Safety – It Starts with YOU.”  Immediately many of us think of patient safety, and that’s as it should be – patients come first. We know that hospitals can be hazardous to patients because of nosocomial infections, medication errors, slips and falls, increased stress because of lack of sleep. Because of our around-the-clock presence, nurses have always been the sentinels, shepherding our charges towards discharge with no complications.

The ANA defines a culture of safety “as one in which core values and behaviors — resulting from a collective and sustained commitment by organizational leadership, managers and workers — emphasize safety over competing goals.”  That’s a great concept but not one that every hospital has put into practice.

Staffing, of course, has to be key – how can nurses fulfill one of our most critical functions – assessing and monitoring patients – if there are too few of us to be able to spend time with patients? How can we prevent pressure ulcers and promote return to strength and mobility if there are too few of us to safely assist patients to ambulate?  Patients who’ve been in and out of hospitals – the “experienced” patient – know that nurses are the key to recovery. I unearthed this from an AJN article published in the 1970s:

The patients were then asked what they felt was the most positive aspect of their experience on the intensive care unit as well as the most negative. Thirteen responded that the most positive aspect was “knowing that the nurses were there every minute”; 10 answered simply, “nurses.”

But a true culture of safety has to include our own individual commitment to safety. The 12-hour shift has come under fire as evidence is mounting that it’s not the best solution for nurses or for patients. (We’ve covered the issue in AJN in a March 2014 news article as it relates to fatigue, and also in the AJN blog, Off the Charts.)  The shifts often extend to more than 12 hours, often without breaks; and some nurses may pick-up extra shifts, working four or five straight days of 12-hour shifts. I don’t work in a hospital but in an office,  yet when I’m on deadlines and working 10-12 hour days, my brain is fried after four days and I know I’m not thinking as clear as I should be. I’d be afraid to have that kind of fatigue and have to give medications and make critical decisions with lives at stake.

We know nurses have been involved in auto accidents (In the February 2014 issue of AJN, we reported on a nurse who was killed on her way home) and involved in near-misses on the drive home from long shifts – my sister, a former NICU night nurse, always put the car in park when she came to a stop light after she found herself falling asleep and coasting through an intersection on her way home.

So for this Nurses’ Week, make a commitment to safety – your patients’ and your own.

Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, FAAN

Posted: 5/11/2016 9:41:11 PM by Lisa Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP | with 4 comments

Jessy Joseph
I agree with your post. Nurses are the Safety Net. Nurses are the soul to any health care organizations. They are on the frontline- assessing, planning, implementing, administering and evaluating patients while keeping patients safe.
11/15/2017 8:07:34 PM

debbie ockhuis
I agree 100% that nurses are the safety nets, but I grapple with the mindset of nurses who occupy in charge positions and think it is their RIGHT to terrorize and bully nurses under their leadership to ensure safe patient care occurs. Do they stop and think for a minute that this type of leadership instills more fear and anxiety in nurses as they deliver nursing care? Do they stop to think aggressive leadership makes nurses under their guidance more prone to errors, placing patient care at a greater risk? Do they stop to think their penalty of financial punishment for patient safety errors, results in a higher level of under reporting and lies telling if staff caught out? Do they stop to think if they stop bully, terrorizing and stop financial penalty, and instead be mindful, respectful and promote an open culture of reporting, that maybe patient safety will improve and reduce the number of patient errors occurring?
12/1/2016 1:32:19 PM

Sarah D. Scudder
Yes, I totally agree with this tittle "nurses are the safety nets" in every hospital. For safety measures, one of the most important thing is clothes, nurse need to wear clean scrubs because they are the one who take care of patients with proper precautions. Keeping the scrub bacteria free, they need to change it twice a day. One of my friends, profession is a nurse and she used to change her scrubs daily. Few months ago, she told me about one online store <a href="">Salus Uniforms</a> for nursing scrubs and she has a nice collection of it.
11/5/2016 2:41:49 AM

Cathy Weber
Couldn't agree more with how important nurses are in this world. They are truly living angels.
10/31/2016 2:17:27 PM