Safety is so important in nursing that it is the primary focus of nursing school, NCLEX, orientation, and nursing protocols. You could say we have a culture of safety, but what does this mean?
It means it is pervasive, certainly, but there are different levels of safety that need to be addressed to fully ensure that everyone is safe – especially nurses. In the push for patient safety, some other safety measures are ignored.
If we are truly going to say that we promote a culture of safety in our practice, it shouldn’t just be about the patient. It could be argued that patient safety comes first, but other types of safety are important, as well.
Nurses are all about patient safety, and that is as it should be. Whether it is using a bed alarm or going through the proper procedures for distributing medications, patient safety is what we all think about when we are on the job.
Obviously, we can improve on what we do to make it even safer for patients. For instance, how many of us really go through the five rights of medication administration or just rely on the computer?
Lifting patients can be dangerous, too. It is a prime time in the care cycle for a patient to fall, but it is a maneuver we do every day to take care of the patient.
The point is that we can always increase our awareness of patient safety and find ways to improve it. There is no such thing as too much patient safety.
One part of safety that is not often considered is the safety of the unit. If you look down your unit’s hallway and are reminded of a maze, you are probably not on a safe unit.
It is so easy to trip over cords, hit your hip against protruding equipment, or experience a collapsing linen cart. Most of these seem funny and minor, but they are a sign that safety is not part of the culture of your facility.
The clean room should be neatly stocked and easy to navigate. The dirty room should similarly be cleared with places for waste clearly marked.
Some nurses don’t realize that an overflowing sharps container is a huge safety risk, and many don’t know how to change out the container. Small lapses of safety like this can lead to huge problems down the road for the unit.
The most overlooked aspect of safety is nurse safety, and it is always considered last. It is last in this article to bring home the point that it shouldn’t be in this position at all!
Nearly everything a nurse does on shift puts them in danger. Lifting? Certainly. Giving injections? You bet. Changing soiled linens, going into a contact room, and collecting samples? All potential places to catch the diseases you are trying to treat.
When you don’t eat, you are putting yourself in danger, too. You run the risk of low blood sugar and passing out, in addition to not being able to concentrate because you are hungry.
Nurses often laugh as how they aren’t even able to go to the bathroom, but this is a huge breach of nurse safety. Urinary tract infections are common in nurses who don’t urinate, and this can lead to a trip to the doctor.
If we truly say we support a culture of safety, then that means we do so across the boards. It isn’t just about the patients, but the unit and – most importantly – the nurse.