Communication Breakdowns Causing Medical Errors


Patients should be able to receive appropriate medical treatment without concerning themselves with anything other than their recovery. According to a recent survey, however, hospital patients could have more to worry about than they realize.

The survey, conducted by medical professional associations and a global training and consulting firm, focused on operating-room and critical-care nurses. The survey found that there is often a breakdown in communication among medical teams, resulting in hospital errors.

More than half of the nurses surveyed-58 percent-reported being in situations where they felt it was not safe to speak up or where they did speak up but could not get anyone to listen to their complaints. According to the report, there are three main concerns with this communication breakdown: dangerous shortcuts, incompetence and disrespect.

A majority of the more than 4,000 nurses surveyed complained of working with individuals who took dangerous shortcuts such as failing to wash their hands long enough. Nearly a third of the nurses said the shortcuts led to near misses, and more than a quarter reported that harm to patients occurred as a result.

Nineteen percent of the nurses interviewed said that they had worked with someone whose incompetence or lack of necessary skill harmed a patient. Twenty percent of the respondents reported that they are treated disrespectfully and are considering leaving the profession as a result.

While many nurses turn to their managers for assistance with these issues, less than half of the 832 nurse managers interviewed had brought the complaints to the attention of the individuals responsible. While 41 percent reported speaking to those accused of taking dangerous shortcuts, only 38 percent of the managers had brought up the issue of disrespect. Incompetence, arguably the most serious of the issues, was discussed by a mere 28 percent of the managers with the individuals alleged to be incompetent.

One out of every three hospital patients suffers a medical error or accident. One way this number could be reduced is by improving medical team communication in hospitals. It is imperative that teams create an environment in which members feel comfortable discussing whatever issues arise in order to ensure patient safety.

Source: Report: Communication Breakdown Leads to Hospital Errors

Posted in Medical Malpractice | Tagged , , |