Patient safety is vital to healthcare, and it is the foundation of quality patient care. In essence, it is preventing errors and accidents that can harm the patient.
As CNAs who frequent the bedside and assist patients in their activities of daily living, patient safety is well in your hands. Alongside doctors and nurses who also have a fair share of this responsibility, CNAs like you are expected to keep patients from harm’s way in all possible ways.
Although many factors, such as understaffing, poor communication, and burnout, affect the way the staff can keep their patients safe, there are ways to prevent mishaps from happening and achieve favorable patient outcomes. The tips below should get you started.
1. Infection Control.
Did you know that nearly 1.7 million patients develop some form of infection two or more days after receiving care from a hospital or facility?
Healthcare-associated infections occur several days after admission, and this means that somewhere in their treatment timeline, there have been breaches in infection control protocols by staff. The sad part is that more than 98,000 of these patients succumb to these infections and die. And these tragedies don't have to happen.
Studies show that simply practicing universal precautions, the most basic of which is thorough handwashing, can lower these numbers, shorten hospital stays, lower healthcare costs, and ultimately save lives.
a. Practice hand hygiene.
To prevent healthcare-associated infections, handwashing and the use of hand sanitizers are vital to patient safety. These procedures significantly reduce the transmission of microorganisms and keep infectious diseases at bay.
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 30-40 seconds. Clean all surfaces including the palms, the back of the hand, the sides and tips of the fingers, and the wrists. Rinse and then dry your hands with a paper towel.
If, for some reason, you cannot wash your hands, use hand sanitizers that have at least 60% alcohol. Use an amount that is enough to cover all of your hands' surfaces and let it air dry completely.
Perform hand hygiene before and after seeing a patient, after using the toilet, before and after meals, and after handling contaminated materials.
b. Use a mask when you have colds.
When you still need to go to work even if you have a cough or a runny nose, you must wear a mask. A mask serves as a barrier to prevent the direct spread of microorganisms.
Remember that patients are somehow more vulnerable to infections because of their poor health condition. You can protect them and keep them safe by wearing a mask.
c. Help patients perform hygiene measures, such as bathing and grooming.
Bathing and other hygiene measures help control the spread of bacteria and viruses that cause infections. Encourage the patients to wash their hands frequently, too.
d. Clean your surroundings and disinfect surfaces.
As a nursing assistant, one of your primary responsibility is to keep the patient's immediate environment clean always. Give particular attention to visibly dirty items because they are highly contaminated. The toilet and frequently-touched surfaces must be cleaned and disinfected as well.
2. Anticipate your patient's needs.
Knowing your patients well can be your ticket to keeping them safe from falls and other accidents. If, for example, you have a patient who drinks a lot of water after meals, schedule toileting about half an hour later. This strategy prevents them from tripping and falling as they hurry to get to the toilet.
3. Communicate effectively.
Many errors happen because of poor communication among staff and between the healthcare team and the patient. If a request is unclear, or if you have doubts about it, do not hesitate to verify it first before carrying it out.
Also, part of effective communication is listening. Listening and paying attention to patient concerns can promote patient safety. Allowing the patient to speak up encourages them to say if something doesn't feel or look right. Comments such as these are red flags for possible errors and signal that you need to probe further.
4. Use checklists.
Checklists are the healthcare team's universal language for task completion. It simplifies what still needs to be done, especially if things get complicated during a shift. Checklists help ensure patient safety by preventing harm caused by missed or repeated procedures.
5. Take care of yourself to avoid burnout.
Constant stress and exhaustion weaken one's decision-making abilities and open doors for mistakes while providing care. Studies show that burnout significantly compromises patient safety, so it is important to take care of your physical health and your mental and emotional wellbeing, too.
As part of the healthcare team, your contribution to patient safety truly matters because you are with the patient most of the time. If you have a keen eye, you'd see potential problems even before they happen. Knowing how to keep a patient safe at all times says that you are highly competent and responsible.
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