People in Massachusetts may have heard of the Hippocratic Oath, which refers to ethical standards that doctors should follow. Health care providers, including nurses, are bound by legal requirements, as well. Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute explains that medical professionals have a duty to their patients to adhere to the standards generally accepted in the field. Failure to meet these by acting or neglecting to act in a way that a reasonable professional would may lead to errors that are considered negligence.
Nurse Journal points out that certain conditions may make it difficult for nurses to avoid mistakes. Often, errors occur when understaffing is a problem. Heavy workloads and long shifts cause pressure and fatigue. However, understanding best practices and making a conscious effort to follow them can help lower the risk of patient harm.
Perhaps the simplest way to protect patients is through proper hand hygiene. This one behavior may also be the most important in preventing hospital-acquired infections. Statistics show that these kill about 99,000 patients in U.S. hospitals every year. The cleaning and disinfection of medical devices and equipment is another standard precaution that must be taken, along with techniques for preventing the spread of microorganisms.
Falls are a common threat in hospitals that nurses may be able to counteract through careful attention to their duties. Patients are at risk when they move around without assistance and are unsteady due to their condition, a medication or a recent procedure. Prevention may be as simple as checking on patients at regular intervals to make sure they do not need anything. Having a demeanor that encourages patients to communicate their needs can also help keep them safe in their beds.