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Three Nursing Tips for Creating a Culture of Safety

Creating a culture of safety in nursingEvery year for National Nurses Week, the American Nurses Association chooses a theme to give nurses and healthcare workers an opportunity to reflect upon and recommit to a core nursing principal. This year, the ANA has chosen “A Culture of Safety” as its theme to remind nurses of the important role that they play in influencing safe practices in a range of healthcare settings. According to the ANA’s website, a culture of safety results from “a collective and sustained commitment by organizational leadership, managers and healthcare workers to emphasize safety over competing goals.”1 The Nursing Degree programs at CTU are built on the foundational idea that nurses and patient safety should always be a priority. From practical advice for recent graduates to a look at common issues affecting safety, Ruth Tarantine, Dean of CTU’s College of Nursing, offers three tips nurses can use to create a culture of safety at their workplace.

Nurses are the Gatekeepers to a Culture of Safety

Because of their versatile role in so many day-to-day operations, nurses are well positioned to affect great change to the safety practices in any given healthcare setting. And yet, many new nurses underestimate the daily impact they can make on healthcare. As CTU’s Dean of Nursing, Ruth Tarantine explains, “Nurses can influence the behavior of others by setting examples of care excellence and patient advocacy. They have a fresh set of eyes to look at what may be old problems.” Tarantine further believes that nurses are the number one driver of quality care and patient safety. Safe and quality care requires collaboration across disciplines, but it is often the nurse who initiates this multidisciplinary approach.

Communication is a Common Culprit

From admission to discharge, nurses often orchestrate a patient’s care across the continuum, and success or failure often depends on their ability to coordinate and communicate with an array of other healthcare professionals.

According to The Joint Commission, a lack of clear communication is a prevalent cause for many common safety-related errors--from falls to fires to equipment malfunction. Their report suggests that good communication requires the clear transfer of important information between staff, physicians, administration and patients.2 Nurses help to facilitate this flow of information, and it’s a responsibility that must be handled with a great deal of care. “It is essential to have acknowledgement that the receiver heard and understood what you said. Nothing can be assumed. Ask for confirmation from the receiver. Lives depend on it,” Tarantine says.

As a 2005 report from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses showed, nurses must also be empowered to speak up when they spot an error or when they simply need additional clarity.3 “It is no longer OK to be silent,” says Tarantine. “If you see something that you feel is wrong, unethical or even a near-miss that resulted from a system failure -- speak up!”

Good Safety Practices Starts With Educators

Every year, around 80,000 students graduate with a baccalaureate nursing degree. These nurses are key to meeting the expected increase in demand on the healthcare system, but there is another great benefit to this influx of new talent. It means that nursing programs--and the educators within them--can have a continuous impact on the culture within the nursing profession. Educators offer their students a vast wealth of clinical and knowledge-based skills, and these same skills affect the lives of every patient the new nurse cares for. “I can’t think of many professions where you can touch so many people,” says Tarantine. “I have personally witnessed a handful of nurse educators change the culture of safety in a hospital within six months. All it takes is one educator who refuses to accept mediocrity and questions, ‘Why can’t we do better?’”

Whether you’re a nurse with years of experience or you’re just starting your career, National Nurses Week is a great time to reflect on the invaluable role nurses play in the healthcare community. It’s also a chance for them to consider those ways they can continue to grow and improve. “I applaud the ANA for choosing a ‘culture of safety’ as its 2016 Nurses Week theme,” says Tarantine. “The first step in changing the culture is recognition that a change must occur. And, who better to lead the charge of creating a culture of safety than 3 million nurses?”

CTU’s Nursing Program recently earned accreditation from the Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education. Click here to learn how our program works to create a culture of excellence for the next generation of nurses.

1Creating A Culture of Safety. (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2016, from http://www.nursingworld.org/CreatingSafetyofCulture
2Root Causes by Event Type. (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2016, from http://www.jointcommission.org/assets/1/18/Root_Causes_by_Event_Type_2004-2015.pdf.
3 Maxfield, D. (2005). Silence Kills Study - Silent Treatment. Retrieved April 21, 2016, from http://www.silenttreatmentstudy.com/silencekills/

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