Archive March 2017 XVIII, No. 3

Slow Down, Save a Life

Keeping your staff safe is a challenge in the fast-paced environment of same-day surgery.

Jim Burger

BIO

keep up the pace WHAT'S THE RUSH? Can you keep up the pace and keep employees safe?

Speed kills. It's true in sports as it is in surgery. "Everyone's always in a hurry, and that's how accidents happen," says Lori Simonetti, RN, nurse manager at Urologic Specialists of New England in West Warwick, R.I. The constant frenetic pace, she says, is her biggest challenge when it comes to keeping her staff safe. She's not alone. It's an everyday conundrum in health care, especially in the ambulatory surgery model built on speed and efficiency. But where do you draw the line between fast and reckless, between responsible and risky?

"Staff are constantly pushed by surgeons and anesthesia to go faster, and that's when they're most at risk," says Lynne Pinkham, RN, BSN, CAPA, of Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick, Maine.

But there's a way to keep from being overwhelmed by the insatiable need for speed, says Ms. Pinkham. "You empower nurses to have a voice, to be able to speak up and say, stop, or let's slow down," she says. "We've really promoted that here over the years, and we now have the support of all of our OR leadership, including the chief of surgery and the chief of anesthesia. It has become our norm, our culture."

Clearly, however, not everyone is getting the message. Though the numbers have improved in recent years, there were still 360,000 reported injuries and illnesses among healthcare workers in hospitals and surgery centers in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The potential hazards are many and obvious. Every day, healthcare workers trip over cords, get splashed by blood and bodily fluids, are cut and punctured by scalpels and syringes, are exposed to radiation, and pull muscles or strain tendons while trying to lift or move heavy objects and patients. All while constantly aware that time is money, So let's go, go, go.

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