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How to Keep Long-Term Patients Safe

Career News August 1, 2013

The safety of patients should always be one of the top priorities in the culture of any long-term healthcare facility. While, most facilities understand the importance of safety, it is not uncommon for them to unintentionally undermine their own efforts by understaffing working shifts or by inadequately training staff members.

The following are steps that all healthcare facilities should take in order to create a safer environment for their long-term care patients. These practices will not only give family members peace of mind knowing that their loved ones will be in good hands, but they will also protect a facility from potential legal problems.

Training

All new staff members should receive extensive training on how to safely care for their long-term care patients and how to be alert for signs of possible health concerns. Staff members should also be educated on the proper way to document any changes in the health or condition of patients. All key staff members should also be up-to-date on their emergency medical aid training

Nurses and other key staff members working with long-term care patients should be provided with refresher courses about a facility’s procedures and standard safe practices on a regular basis. While staff members may find these types of courses repetitive or redundant, they will appreciate them when they can quickly implement recently re-learned practices in the event of an emergency rather than having to try and recall something they were taught months or even years before.

Additionally, it is not uncommon for staff members to slowly forget to follow through on certain practices of a facility’s standard of care. For instance, a staff member may forget to train a new co-worker to record certain information on a patient’s record. Unfortunately, it won’t take long for the procedure to disappear altogether from a facility’s standard practice of care. Yearly refresher courses will remind staff of important procedures they might otherwise forget to perform.

Working Conditions for Nurses

An unhappy or overworked staff will have a tendency to make critical mistakes that can put long-term healthcare patients at risk. Facilities need to ensure that they have a good patient-to-staff ratio and that shifts are covered adequately, so even if a nurse calls in sick, there will be enough coverage for each patient.

It is also important that nurses feel that their concerns are met, and they are paid adequately. Disgruntled staff members may intentionally or unintentionally begin to get lax in their care of patients.

Keeping Excellent Records

It is vitally important that nurses keep excellent, legible records of all medication being administered, so patients will not receive double or inadequate dosages. Staff members should also be trained to look out for changes in the health and condition of patients and then record them in an individual’s record.

Inadequate or poor record keeping could result in a patient becoming over- or under-medicated, and could even result in a patient becoming seriously ill or dying.

Good Hygiene

Good hygiene practices are especially important in long-term care facilities where most patients are already weak or have compromised immune systems. Unfortunately, overworked or fatigued nurses or other staff members may forget to wash their hands or disinfect tools properly. Staff should be reminded frequently of the importance of good hygiene in order to prevent widespread sicknesses or infections in a long-term care facility.

Medication Practices

All nurses and staff members should always double-check the name on a patient’s wristband against the one on a medication before administering it. If the patient can talk, he or she should also be asked to verbally confirm his or her identity. The proper dosage should also be double checked before medication is administered.

Fall Prevention

Falls are one of the most common reasons patients are injured in long-term care facilities. For instance, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1,800 elderly patients each year die due to falls they suffered while living in nursing homes.

To protect long-term care patients, the CDC recommends that all staff members be trained in fall prevention and that facilities should include safety features that make falling less likely, such as grab bars and lowered bed heights.

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