To qualify as a critical access hospital, a facility must adhere to several standards set by the Joint Commission accrediting body. Most of these standards and goals directly affect how patient care nurses do their jobs.
The Joint Commission has released five national patient safety goals to improve patient outcomes in these facilities, and like most of their directives, these goals can affect nurses’ day to day practices. Here are the goals and requirements for meeting them.
•Properly identify patients. Most treatment errors result from mixing up one patient with another. To help prevent these mistakes, patients should be identified in at least two ways. The Joint Commission gives the use of both the patient’s name and birth date as an example of how to go about this.
•Improve staff communication. Make sure important test results and other information gets to the right person in a timely fashion.
•Ensure medicines are used safely. This entails implementing several procedures to eliminate errors. First, make sure all medicines are labeled even if they are in syringes, basins or cups. Do this as soon as the medicines are setup. Second, record correct data about which medicines patients are taking and compare them against any new prescriptions. Also, be sure patients know how to take their medicines while at home. Have them bring a current list of medicines taken to each doctor visit. Finally, be extra careful about patients who are taking blood thinners.
•Prevent infections. Make sure you follow hand washing guidelines published by the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Facilities should set goals to improve hand cleaning procedures, and staff should follow the guidelines stated in those goals. For the prevention of infections caused by blood from central lines or catheters, follow proven guidelines. The same goes for preventing infections that are difficult to treat and infections that can be contracted after surgery.
•Prevent surgical errors. Make sure the correct patient is getting the surgery and that the surgery is being done on the correct part of his or her body. To help with this, use the patient identification procedures from the first point. Then mark the correct place on the patient’s body. Before starting the surgery, pause long enough to be absolutely sure that all is in order, and the right person is on the operating table.
These critical access hospital safety goals are mostly common-sense measures that should be easy to implement. Patient care nurses can start making improvements right away by taking care to properly identify patients, watching out for potential surgical errors, labeling medicines and properly cleaning all equipment.
If problems exist at the institutional level, policies can be implemented by nursing management to control them. Staff communications will flow better with established guidelines, and an emphasis on quality over raw production speed will improve sterilization techniques.
When implementing the guidelines stated by these Joint Commission goals, hospitals should see an improvement in patient outcomes. By eliminating the tightening procedures and eliminating the guesswork, errors and liability will be reduced while patient health is increased.
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