A Nurse’s Thoughts on Healthcare during Patient Safety Awareness Week

Over 30 years ago, as a brand-new graduate nurse, I was starry-eyed and ready to change the world – one patient’s life at a time.

Over time, I discovered that my passion to make a difference paired with my ability to communicate and connect with others could work well in other avenues of healthcare such as quality, patient safety, and regulatory.

I wanted to facilitate processes that made it as easy as possible for every healthcare professional to do the right thing for every single patient every single time.

However, sometimes the best intentions may backfire and may even make it more difficult for the patient care frontline to do their jobs – particularly if initiatives outlive the problem they were designed to solve.

Let me explain, pre-pandemic there were more nurses and more time for them to participate in performance improvement projects and influence the practice changes that impacted their every day. Checklists and audits created healthy reminders of steps toward best evidenced-based practice.

But then the whole world, and in particular our healthcare world, was changed by that invisible-to-the-naked-eye enemy. COVID-19. We were already on shaky ground with new nurses not being educated quickly enough to replace retiring ones and high rates of burnout during the best of times. But now as many as 1 in 5 fulltime healthcare professionals are leaving those roles. Suicide rates among healthcare professionals – which were never low – are now higher than ever.

So, actions like asking a charge nurse to complete daily audits or pulling a nurse manager into multiple performance improvement actives may have worked a few years ago. But asking those same things now when charge nurses and managers are often pulled into staffing with full patient loads doesn’t feel like supporting them anymore.

I absolutely know that processes in healthcare need to be checked and audited. But I also know that throwing one more thing on already stretched – sometimes traumatized even – healthcare team members can be that “final straw” that causes them to call it quits.

For me, personally, I am coming full circle in my career and actually taking a career break in order to regroup and find ways to wear scrubs more and carry “corrective clipboards” less. (Plus, this break coincides will with my taking some long overdue time for some healing and processing of a couple strong blows that have hit my personal life hard in recent years). I know not everyone has the ability to do this, but I believe there are some things everyone in healthcare leadership can easily do to be a blessing-not-a-burden, asset-not-an-a$$-kicker, supporter-not-a-destroyer, and an encourager-not-an-enforcer. (You get the idea).

  • Wear scrubs
    • Sometimes it’s as simple as losing the polyester power suit or dress and being a little more relatable
  • Jump in and do something tangible for them!
    • You may be like me and it’s been a minute since your clinical days. It may not be safe for you to take a whole load of patients. But if you’re more on the administrative side of health care these days, even taken 10-15 minutes out of your day to answer phones or call lights or calm a confused patients could make the difference and make you much easier to listen to when you give them correction or advice.
  • Uplift more than you correct.
    • Remember when all the leadership gurus were touting the importance of sandwiching correction or any other information that may weigh someone down between positive/uplifting comments? Well, that is more important than ever!

Just being present and listening can mean more than you ever know. Now more than ever, healthcare professionals may feel warn and torn – like a ragamuffin. If they see your heart, time, and intention – you may be just the oasis a weary soul needs.

On the RaDonda Vaught Verdict

Those of us who have been in the healthcare field for more than a minute cannot deny that the system is broken. Our health care organizations and professionals are excellent and compassionate but at risk of being set up for failure by the larger broken system (or, more accurately, non-system) that exists across our nation.

I can’t help but believe that the entire nursing profession is going through collective survivor’s syndrome right now as we watch a colleague facing prison time for a medication error.

Many of us in the field of Healthcare Quality have worked so hard to encouraging speaking up when things go wrong in healthcare. But I believe this verdict is not just tragic for the individual nurse involved, but could possibly cripple much of the forward motion we’ve made in building transparent cultures of patient safety within hospitals over the past decade.

Teamwork Simplified

In my industry, Healthcare Quality and Patient Safety, there are many programs that teach team training. And that’s a good thing. In this and many other industries such as air transportation and manufacturing, the high reliability produced by great teamwork does much more than create successful popular businesses. It can literally save lives.

My idea of a high functioning team is one in which miscommunication rarely occurs and when it does it is quickly clarified so all members are working from the “same playbook” and “dancing to the same beat” once again.  This correlates well with the research coming out of the Patient Safety and Healthcare Quality arenas which aggregate data from adverse patient care incidents across the country. The most commonly identified causitive factor of adverse events in healthcare is breakdown in communication, a.k.a poor teamwork.

However, I sometimes wonder if we spend too much time teaching complicated methodologies on what it takes to be a winning team.  I saw this simple acronym come across my LinkedIn feed today (unsure of original source of the quote) that summed up great teams in one little square on my cell phone screen.

What is a Picture Worth?

When all of the stir began among my colleagues across the nation after the comments from the ladies of The View, I posted some thoughts as a picture on a prior blog post.  However, since then – a community of nurses has come together to support each other and our great profession.  One example is a Facebook group called “Show Me Your Stethoscope” with over 800,000 nurses dialoguing with each other there. The type of posts range from infamous MEMEs, to New Grad Nurses celebrating passing boards, to straight up comedy (that probably only nurses would get), to beautiful personal photos.

One photo that caught my eye was posted in the ” Show Me Your Stethoscope” group by Tami Sturdivant Jones.  It is an old photograph of her Great Aunt praying in a chapel in Brussels, Belgium while serving as a nurse in World War II.  Even though my original post with the generic clipart stethoscope seemed to speak to the hearts of many nurses, I believe this beautiful photograph better depicts the heartbeat of the Nursing Profession:  We have a calling, not just a job.  This photograph is truly priceless.  Thank you, Tami, for sharing it with us.

praying nurse

Starting Out by Chiming In: My View on The View’s View of Nursing

Well….  I actually had something else in mind for my first blog post.  But because I’m a nurse who started wearing a stethoscope around my neck when I became a CNA at age 16, I can’t resist chiming in with my own “view” about all the hub-bub that’s been going on in the nursing world since the ladies of The View gave their feedback on Miss Colorado’s Monologue during the recent Miss America pageant.  And it actually does go along with what I was planing to write about:  having a purpose….  having a calling.  So I’ll simply state my view with these few words:

nursing calling 09182015