Put nurses in charge of patient safety, says Joint Commission surveyor.

Bari Faye Dean

National Nurses Week or Month has to be more than a luncheon, a poster contest or even distributing hospital swag. Celebrating the nursing profession means examining how nurses are “uniquely prepared” to be leaders when it comes to improving quality care and ensuring safety, according to Lisa DiBlasi Moorehead, EdD, MSN, RN, surveyor at The Joint Commission and current field director of the Psychiatric Hospital Accreditation Program, in an article published May 18 on The Joint Commission’s website.

While reports predict the nursing shortage will get far worse in the next few years, today’s 3 million nurses represent the biggest slice of the healthcare professional pie.

“Nurses are knowledgeable on the needs and expectations of individual patients as well as communities. We understand pathophysiology and the effects of medications, treatments, and procedures. We perform ongoing assessments and coordinate care among members of the team to ensure patients get the care they need,” Dr. DiBlasi Moorehead said.

As the American Nurses Association often reiterates, advocacy is a pillar of the profession and nurses are in a position to be patient advocates.

Nurses are also on the front lines of healthcare and often can see dangerous situations that could cause adverse events before any other member of the healthcare team. When it comes to breakdowns in communication between clinicians and the patient, nurses can be the liaison who clarifies misunderstandings and reduces incidents of human mistakes.

Three areas nurses can focus on to improve quality and patient safety include recognizing everyone is a human being and humans make mistakes. “Since nurses provide the most direct care, we know where there are risks within care delivery systems, what works, what doesn’t, and workarounds that may save time but can increase risk,” Dr. DiBlasi Moorehead said.

Making sure there are consistent assessments of patients is “critical in determining patient responses to treatment” and can inform modified care resulting in improved outcomes.

Finally, communication is a key part of any safety protocol. “Nurses spend the most time with patients [and] we are often the first to notice subtle changes in patient condition and can take quick action to prevent an emergency,” Dr. DiBlasi Moorehead said, noting that communicating well in those situations, as well as during transitions in care and discharge, can mean the difference between a successful patient experience and an adverse event.

“Nurses have the knowledge to create safer systems that account for these human factors to help all members of the healthcare team provide safer, higher quality care,” the nursing leader said.