The top 4 overlooked healthcare safety measures

How to make changes that will have an immediate impact

The top 4 overlooked healthcare safety measures
Mia Barnes

A safe workplace is a right every worker deserves to have, so promoting a culture of safety is crucial. Healthcare employees face significant risks despite technological advancements, leading many to wonder what organization leaders can do to mitigate dangers. Here are four safety measures often ignored in the industry and the actions you can take to implement them.

1. Manage exposure and illness

Healthcare staff confront several hazards, including exposure to infectious diseases. They touch many surfaces during a single patient interaction. Hygienic practices can easily slip their minds during busy days.

Staff handling patients are required to observe hand hygiene in five critical moments of interaction, including before contact, before any procedure, after exposure, after contact with the patient and post-contact with their environment. Ensure they clean their hands with soap and water or alcohol-based products to break the chain of infection.

2. Implement ergonomic practices

Those manually supporting patients are at an elevated risk of physical strain and injuries. Ergonomic practices are often disregarded, leading to serious accidents that could have been avoided.

One way to support your workers is by minimizing or eliminating manual lifting of patients and using assistive devices, such as lifts and transfer equipment. It avoids awkward positions that increase pressure on the spine and joints. You should train staff on how to use these items properly, encourage proper body mechanics and apply ergonomic knowledge to their daily lifting tasks.

3. Improve communication

In a workplace where many people are involved, effective communication is vital for the safety of healthcare workers and patients. Instructions that aren't clear will be open to misinterpretations and potential mistakes at work.

Ensure you communicate workplace policy updates so everyone understands and can comply with them. Regarding patient information, a tool that allows interdisciplinary collaboration and data sharing among the healthcare team can streamline the workflow process. In addition, it can improve patient experience and outcomes and avoid mistakes in interpreting reports.

4. Eliminate distractions

Distractions are normal in any workplace. However, in health care, one second of interruption can result in a situation with severe consequences that compromise patient safety. According to data, distracting noises from alarms, bells and telephones occur about 95 times during a single surgical case. Surgeons are distracted 44% of the time and the operating room door opens and closes as often as 41 times per procedure.

Whether it's a computer alert, background noise or a question raised by another clinician, distraction-related errors, unfortunately, happen in healthcare settings. It doesn't just affect the patients but also the staff.

Some practical ways to minimize distractions are:

  • Establishing a no-interruption zone in specific areas like operating rooms
  • Ensuring staff are educated to comply with the rules
  • Managing devices, including alarms and notification alerts
  • Making a checklist so it’s easy to return to tasks after being interrupted

Some hospitals in Canada install OR black boxes that capture patients' vital signals, audio, video and other data to make the procedures safer. The recordings are sent to the International Centre for Surgical Safety (ICSS) in Toronto for review. These measures can help staff be more present, especially when doing tasks requiring high concentration.

Prioritizing safety can improve staff’s well-being

After analyzing these safety measures, everything boils down to having clear and appropriate protocols your staff can follow to minimize health risks in your organization.

Whether it's managing exposure, implementing proper body mechanics when lifting patients, enhancing communication or removing interruptions, setting the right policies is the primary solution to mitigating risks in health care.