Nowadays, patient safety is a universal imperative. The term implies preventing harm to patients. In general, the patient safety policies aim to prevent medical errors, encourage learning from the occurred errors and develop patient safety culture based on the built knowledge.
According to the statistical data, over 90 000 Americans die due to medical error annually (Welzel, 2012). The identified problem has many social and economic implications. High rates of patient harm due to medical errors interfere with the development of both individual and social welfare and well-being. As mentioned by Welzel (2012), “around 10% of all patients entering hospitals are harmed in one way or another, and 2% die because of a medical error” (p. 406).
Both inpatient and outpatient populations are exposed to the risks of medical harm. For instance, primary care patients may be harmed due to errors in prescribing drugs, as well as errors in laboratory tests, filing systems, and responding to abnormal test results (Kaprielian et al., 2008). At the same time, neglect, lack of knowledge about safety measures (e.g., aimed to prevent hospital-acquired infections), inadequate staffing, and unavailability of time for regular monitoring of patients’ conditions result in most of the cases of harm to inpatient population.
Insufficient professional experience is regarded as the major cause of medical errors (Schmidt, Goldhaber-Fiebert, Ho, & McDonald, 2013). These findings emphasize the importance of clinical staff training. Moreover, to achieve positive results, leaders should promote the spirit of collegiality and cooperation within their settings; and establish trustful, respectful, and open communication to increase health practitioners’ willingness to report and correct errors.
Learning and training may be regarded as the primary intervention measures. An effective nursing education should address such issues as the science of safety, care reliability, values of various safety management practices, and the processes of performance improvement (Stavrianopolous, 2012). Schmidt et al. (2013) suggest simulation as one of the educational strategies. Since there is a positive correlation between practitioners’ experience and the frequency of medical errors, the deliberate practice may boost their confidence and help to build necessary knowledge that, in their turn, may result in a better patient safety. Simulation learning is effective because it may be tailored to meet particular organizational safety improvement needs, and it can “replicate rare, complex, or high-stakes scenarios known to affect individual and team performance” (Schmidt et al., 2013). In this way, the given education strategy has potential to improve patient outcomes by supporting patient safety.
It is observed that patient safety culture is always created as a result of individual and organizational values, perceptions, and competencies that define a team’s commitment to safety management (Stavrianopolous, 2012). Therefore, it is crucial to raise health practitioners’ awareness of various efficient and evidence-based preventive measures and generate positive perceptions of the significance of safety in them. As a consequence of the cultural improvement and enforcement of safety management principles, it will be possible to reduce the rates of deaths and injuries related to patient safety in hospitals and attain a greater level of patient satisfaction.
Kaprielian, V., Østbye, T., Warburton, S., Sangvai, D., & Michener, L. (2008). A system to describe and reduce medical errors in primary care. In K. Henriksen, J. B. Battles, M. A. Keyes & M. Grady (Eds.), Advances in patient safety: New directions and alternative approaches (pp. 1-11). Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Schmidt, E., Goldhaber-Fiebert, S. N., Ho, L. A., & McDonald, K. M. (2013). Simulation exercises as a patient safety strategy: A systematic review. Annals Internal Medicine, 158(5), 426-432.
Stavrianopolous, T. (2012). The development of patient safety culture. Health Science Journal, 6(2), 201-211.
Welzel, T. B. (2012). Patient safety. CME: Continuing Medical Education, 30(11), 406-409.