Nurses Still Afraid To Speak Up

Believe it or not, health-care workers are still afraid to speak up when doctors make mistakes or take dangerous shortcuts, even in 2011 according to a study from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses.

Even with the mandatory placement of safety tools and checklists in hospitals, mistakes are still made. The reality is, doctors are not machines and human error will happen. The placement of these mandatory measures just aren’t enough to help prevent errors. According to the study, it is the lack of support and teamwork that makes these factors less effective.  Things that work against the mandatory preventive measures include poor communication, disrespectful coworkers and lousy teamwork. These factors also can negatively impacts patient outcomes.

On a good note, many of the tools are working around  85 percent of the time to help warn of  a potential hazard to a patient. The surprising part of the study was that in terms of nurses or health care workers who are witness errors and mistakes …  more than half (58 percent) were afraid to speak up about a potential hazard or error. Here’s the breakdown…

  • 84%  said their colleagues take dangerous shortcuts, only 17% shared their concerns.
  • 82%  said incompetence led to near misses or patient harm, but only 11% have spoken to the incompetent colleague.
  • 85% said their coworkers show poor teamwork or act disrespectfully, only 16% shared concerns with that person.

“There is more work needed in the OR to support the surgical team’s ability to establish a culture of safety where all members can openly discuss errors, process improvements or system issues without fear of reprisal,” said AORN Executive Director and CEO Linda Groah.

“Compared with what we learned in 2005, nurses now speak up at much better rates,” said Kristin Peterson, cardiac clinical nurse specialist and president of the association that sponsored the study. “They are now nearly three times more likely to have spoken directly to the person and shared their full concerns.”

Bottom Line — Healthcare leaders need to further improve people’s ability to have conversations and ease the fear of repercussion so that calling attention to an error is something that is welcomed and not frowned upon or stigmatized.

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