As a travel nurse, your main priority is providing the best—and safest—care to your patients. In any job, there exists a certain number of hurdles that you’ll need to overcome to do your job well, and healthcare is no exception. That’s why the ECRI Institute compiles an annual list to help nurses and other healthcare professionals stay aware of certain hazards that can place their patients or themselves in danger. The organization determines this list by conducting research among healthcare professionals and facilities. They identify the most pressing hazards affecting good care delivery for that year. The ECRI takes into account qualities such as severity, frequency of occurence, ease (or difficulty) of recognition, and preventability to devise their list of health technology hazards. As you travel between facilities during your assignments, it’s important to be able to recognize these hazards so you can help prevent them.
What you need to know about the top five health technology hazards
According to the ECRI Institute, the following five health hazards top their annual list. Take time to become familiar with these concerns, as well as how to avoid them.
- Inadequate alarm configuration policies and practices. Nurses should be aware of all medical device warning alarms used in the care of patients. This includes which alarms to use and how to set them based on a patient’s care needs. Improper use of alarms can result in patient injury or death.
- Incorrect or missing date in EHRs and other health IT systems. Most facilities have switched to Electronic Health Records to track patient treatments. Unfortunately, charting errors can still occur, which can compromise the accuracy of patient information and the effectiveness of subsequent care. This can be related to human error or system error. For the best results, nurses should take the time they need to input patient data and ensure it’s as accurate as possible. If you are unsure how your EHR system works, be sure to ask for proper training.
- Mix-up of IV lines leading to misadministration of drugs and solutions. Your patients may require multiple IV lines, resulting in a tangled spaghetti of IV tubes. Your job is to keep these lines straight to ensure all IVs are delivering the right substance to the right infusion site at the right rate of infusion. You can avoid confusion by physically tracing the route of each line, and labeling each line clearly.
- Inadequate reprocessing of endoscopes and surgical instruments. Some devices can be re-used for additional procedures, but facilities must be sure to properly clean and sanitize them to remove residue or other infectious material. For best results, you must thoroughly clean a device before it is disinfected or sterilized. Follow all cleaning protocol, and if you’re unsure, just ask for help.
- Ventilator disconnections not caught because of mis-set or missed alarms. Ventilators are critical to sustaining life in patients who have trouble breathing on their own. You must be aware of any warning alarms associated with ventilators, including low-pressure or low-minimum volume alarms.
To read more about these and other pressing health technology hazards for 2015, you can review the ECRI Institute’s annual report.
What you can do to help ensure the best possible patient care
During your orientation, be aware of these potential health hazards. If they aren’t covered, make sure you ask questions to get the information you need. This will help you do your job to the best of your ability. Your patients’ care depends on it.
Are you looking for your next travel nursing position?