The National Patient Safety Foundation has named the week of March 2-8 National Patient Safety Awareness Week.
This year’s theme is “Navigate Your Health…Safely.” A patient’s health journey often starts with diagnosis, but experts estimate that up to one in every 10 diagnoses is wrong, delayed, or missed completely and that, collectively, diagnostic errors may account for 40,000-80,000 deaths per year in the US.
How can you help reduce those errors? Well, start with keeping yourself and your facility safe and clean. You might want to check out a recent study that just came out showing that stethoscopes used during physical exams can carry as many germs as a physician’s hand and lead to outbreaks of MRSA and other infections.
Seriously, when’s the last time you cleaned your stethoscope? I used to work as an EMT in the back of an ambulance, and I am thankful one of the requirements every morning was to wipe down our scopes with a disinfecting wipe.
Next, reduce those slips, trips, and falls. The winter’s not over yet. Shovel your sidewalks and entryways, sand down icy areas, and make sure your workers and patients are wearing the proper non-slip footwear.
Be safe out there. We are all trying to keep our patients safe – but it starts with you!
One of the stories I have been following very closely in hospital and clinic safety is that of San Francisco General Hospital, a facility that has learned a very difficult lesson in how important it is to have protocols in place to deal with missing patients.
Basically, 57-year-old San Francisco resident Lynne Spalding Ford had admitted herself into the hospital Sept. 19 for treatment of a urinary tract infection. She went missing on Sept. 21 and a hospital engineer found her body on Oct. 8 in a fourth-floor exterior stairwell, which was being used as a fire escape, during a quarterly check of the hospital grounds.
There were obviously many questions as to why it took 17 days to find her body, and ultimately the blame fell on hospital staff, overworked nurses who ignored a doctor’s order to “NEVER” leave her unattended since she was on disorientating drugs. More blame fell on the San Francisco Sheriff’s department, whose deputies searched only 3 of the hospital’s 10 stairwells and didn’t even double check to see what Ford looked like – originally they thought they was looking for a black woman in scrubs when she was actually white in street clothes.
Lastly, several hospital staff were fired or forced to resign because they illegally accessed Ford’s medical records without permission FOUR times.
I could write a book on the rules that were broken here, and you’ve heard them before. I am sure the lawsuits have only begun, and although CMS has done their preliminary investigation you can bet the Joint Commission and OSHA are not far behind.
Take some lessons from San Francisco and apply them to your own facility before it’s too late.
Here in the Boston area, along with a large part of the country (except in Florida, where my mother keeps reminding me that it’s 80 degrees), we are dealing with some downright cold and icy conditions.
It’s this time of year that the clinic safety experts are on their game, reminding their employees and patients of the need to practice safe walking and lifting, especially in the parking lots and entryways, where slippery and untreated surface could lead to nasty slips, trips and falls.
I like the fun technique dreamed up by Bruce Cunha, manager of employee health safety for 60 clinics in Wisconsin, a place where Old Man Winter shows no mercy. You can check out his tips for keeping your clinics safe as well as others in the February issue of Medical Environment Update.
Instead of just a friendly reminder, a music video was produced, reminding employees to “walk like a penguin” – shuffling their feet in sort of a waddling motion, as opposed to the up and down of normal walking. To make it a little more fun, Cunha set the video to music, adding in the 1980s Bangles’ tune “Walk like an Egyptian” and employing volunteers to film themselves demonstrating the proper walking technique. Follow-up included signs in hallways, staff break rooms and other places that would ensure the message would stay in front of them. During the “Walk like a Penguin” campaign, small vinyl penguin footprints were placed on the floors of clinics as a visual reminder.
Cunha says the video worked so well that employees have been singing the songs in the hallways of his clinic, and he plans to produce more videos on topics ranging from food safety to needlestick safety.
“It obviously is getting across,” he says. “I see many people who walk down the hall past me and say ‘I’m walking like a penguin’.”
Stay safe out there. Just think – in about 3 months we’ll complaining about how hot it is.
Safety is always a serious subject, especially in the airline industry, which has one of the best safety records in any industry but any lapses in safety and security could have disastrous results.
Still, anyone who has taken a trip on an airplane has undoubtedly tuned out the pre-flight safety lecture that flight attendants give about fastening your seat belts and grabbing your seat cushions if you go for a swim during your flight.
That’s why I am loving Delta’s new in-flight safety video which has been circulated this morning on social media. It’s a fun take on the usual safety video that gives a nod to the 80s, featuring multiple references to the decade including Alf, Atari, breakdancing, Teddy Ruxpin, and Devo.
It’s an era that I remember just a little bit too much, but the humor of it got me to watch it and take it seriously, especially when I watched Alf trying to put an oxygen mask on his snout. It just goes to show that safety can be fun as well as serious, and maybe it takes a little humor and a different approach to get people to pay attention to the same message.
For years, the one thing that has symbolized the professional physician is the ubiquitous white coat. Patients and colleagues alike have come to regard it as the garment of choice that distinguishes a doctor among a sea of others in scrubs.
If the Society of Healthcare Epidemiology of America has any say, those days will change. The organization has issued new infection control recommendations that include getting rid of the white coats, which the group says could carry germs from patient to patient. The group also recommends doing away with neckties, wristwatches, and other pieces of attire that wouldn’t normally be disinfected after patient care.
The recommendations appear online in the February issue of the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.
While health professionals that regard the white coats as a sign or professionalism are not likely to give up the white coats anytime soon, SHEA has said they would like to see a time when the coats are given up in favor of scrubs, or at least policies that would require physicians to launder and change the coats more often when they are seeing patients.
In the meantime, SHEA continues to suggest that healthcare professionals continue to practice good infection control habits such as regular hand washing, proper disinfection of patient care surfaces, and careful cleaning and disinfection of invasive devices.
What do you think?