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Patient and Nurse Safety: Navigating Challenging Situations With Care

Healthcare is an important part of modern society and key to maintaining a functioning and healthy population. However, healthcare is often a stressful, demanding and even chaotic environment to navigate, whether you are a patient or medical professional. Although the focus is primarily on healing and improving lives, healthcare interactions can sometimes be fraught with stress and safety risks, so emphasizing safety is vital.

Nurses, in particular, play a pivotal role in maintaining safety in these settings and must be ready to take action to safeguard themselves and those around them. Still, it can be more complicated than one might imagine. That’s why the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) online Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program prepares nurses with the knowledge and skills needed to address these challenges and promote safety and care in the workplace.

What Are Common Healthcare Safety Challenges?

Nurses and other healthcare professionals often encounter these common safety issues:

  • High workload and stress. Nurses frequently juggle multiple patients, complex treatments and administrative tasks. Switching between these responsibilities can contribute to stress and decision fatigue, increasing the likelihood of errors and adverse events.
  • Communication breakdowns. Effective communication across the care team is central to patient safety. Miscommunication can result in mixed messages, care delays and medical errors.
  • Inadequate resources. Shortages — including staffing, equipment and medications — can strain healthcare systems and impact nurses’ ability to manage patient care safely.
  • Infection control. Infection prevention and control are critical, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Failure to adhere to proper protocols can risk the health of patients and staff, increasing the susceptibility to infection and disease.

What Are the Top Nursing Safety Concerns Post-Pandemic?

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of safety in healthcare and introduced new challenges that continue to impact nurses and the quality of care they provide. For example, staffing shortages existed pre-pandemic but have reached critical levels in many areas. According to Wolters Kluwer, there currently are not enough experienced bedside nurses to meet patient demand, prompting several states to propose or implement minimum patient-nurse ratios.

High turnover rates continue to plague many healthcare facilities and are often associated with inadequate orientation support for nurses. After being hired, nurses may need at least two years of onboarding at an organization to work safely and independently. Many employers also have an experience-complexity gap when nurses do not have the skills to care for higher-acuity patients. These challenges add to the difficulties in creating schedules and safe staffing ratios.

How to Improve Nursing Safety Protocols and Emergency Response

Despite the safety challenges inherent to nursing, there are many ways nurses can alleviate the dangers for themselves and their patients:

  • Focus on clear communication and collaboration.
  • Consider using walking rounds and shift reports during handoffs to ensure everyone is on the same page.
  • Double-check medications and labels to prevent administration errors.
  • Document patient assessments, interventions and outcomes promptly and in detail.
  • Follow infection control protocols rigorously, including hand hygiene, personal protective equipment (PPE) use and isolation procedures.
  • Encourage patients to ask questions, voice concerns and actively participate in their care.
  • Participate in regular training and drills to enhance your ability to respond to emergencies calmly and confidently.
  • Stay updated with the latest medical advancements and evidence-based practices.
  • Avoid burnout by maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
  • Seek emotional support or counseling when needed.

Safety in healthcare is a complex issue that requires ongoing attention and proactive measures, particularly with the added stressors created by the post-pandemic landscape. As frontline care providers, nurses play a vital role in creating a safe environment for patients and themselves, which begins with maintaining rigorous safety protocols and emergency response strategies. An advanced nursing degree, like that from UNCW, prepares nurses to prioritize patient and nurse safety.

Learn more about the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s online RN to BSN program.

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