In Nursing It’s All About Safety

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June 8th, 2012

By , BSN, RN

What is a nurse’s number one priority? Patient Safety! This must be the most common phrase you will hear from day one of nursing school throughout the entirety of your career. And this week, another study shows that in fact, keeping patients safe is what we do best.

According to research published in the newest edition of the Association of peri-Operative Nursing (AORN) Journal, circulating nurses are catching more than 75 percent of potential incidents that occur in operating rooms. Circulators are reducing surgical errors and improving patient safety.

Y. Tony Yang, Sc.D., M.P.H., of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and colleagues conducted a study in which circulating RNs observed 18 surgical procedures performed in a cardiovascular OR between June and September of 2010.

The research team compiled evidence of 200 incidents for an average of 11.11 errors during each procedure. Circulators intercepted more than three-quarters (77 percent) of all the incidents and remaining errors were improved or made less severe thereby avoiding adverse outcomes.

The areas of incident included breaks in aseptic technique or surgical prepping; counting errors; errors in infection assessment or prevention; errors involving skin or tissue injury, and various miscellaneous incidents including incorrect medications, problems with patient transfer and potential for electrical injury.

"Our study demonstrated that circulating nurses play an important role in maintaining patient safety. Without them, the errors or incidents caught and ameliorated during the study period could have resulted in serious adverse outcomes," the authors write. "This study also reinforced the necessity of vigilance in the OR, especially in regard to aseptic technique and surgical prepping."

Other Safety News

Another area of safety concern for everyone in hospitals is the needlestick. According to national safety organizations, an estimated 384,000-needlestick injuries occur in hospitals each year, and of those, 23% occur in surgical settings. Needlestick injuries have the potential to expose health care personnel to blood borne viruses, such as Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), Hepatitis C Virus (HCV), and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

Now, those agencies, including the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA); the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC’s) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have teamed up to recommend greater use of blunt-tip surgical suture needles to reduce the risk for needlestick injuries and possible subsequent blood borne pathogen transmission to surgical personnel.

In a statement issued May 30, 2012, blunt-tip suture needles, "which are not as sharp as standard (sharp-tip) suture needles, are designed to penetrate muscle and fascia and reduce the risk of needlesticks."

The alert goes on to state that more than half of needlestick injuries involving suture needles occur during the suturing of fascia or muscle. However, changing to blunt-tip suture needles may reduce that risk for needlestick injuries by more than two thirds.

"Although blunt-tip suture needles currently cost some 70 cents more than their standard suture needle counterparts, the benefits of reducing the risk of serious and potentially fatal blood borne infections for health care personnel support their use when clinically appropriate," according to the alert.

In comparison, the cost of managing a needlestick injury can range from $376 to $2456 per incident, along with associated anxiety and loss of productivity as an affected person waits for test results.

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