Editor’s Notes: In this article, Michael Wong, JD (Executive Director, Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety) discusses why we need more nurses and better equipped nurses to improve patient safety and care.
By Michael Wong, JD (Executive Director, Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety)
Happy Nurses Week!
As an advocate for patient monitoring, I am often asked how much I value nurses. More particularly, people often ask me – is PPAHS trying to replace nurses with technology?
This week where we celebrate and thank nurses for the invaluable role they play in patient care and safety, I would like to make two points:
We Need More Nurses!
Declining nurse to patient ratios place patients at risk – low nurse-to-patient ratios are a patient safety risk. As the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has stated:
Nurses’ vigilance at the bedside is essential to their ability to ensure patient safety. It is logical, therefore, that assigning increasing numbers of patients eventually compromises nurses’ ability to provide safe care. Several seminal studies have demonstrated the link between nurse staffing ratios and patient safety, documenting an increased risk of patient safety events, morbidity, and even mortality as the number of patients per nurse increases.
Ideally, a nurse should be present in a patient’s room 24×7. If a patient isn’t continuously electronically monitored, I have recommended that patients have a friend, family member, or caregiver in the room, particularly when an opioid or other pain medication has been administered.
We Need Nurses to be Better Equipped
It takes skilled clinicians to improve patient care and safety. Technology is an enabler – an aid to improve the user in whatever task they are performing. As American Nurse Today reports:
Technology enables care and enhances safety by automating functions both simple and complex. It doesn’t replace nurses.
Here are many some examples of technology that have helped improve patient health:
- Blood Glucose Meters – Blood glucose meters measure and display the amount of sugar (glucose) in blood. They are an essential tool in the management of diabetes.
- Stethoscopes – It is hard to think of a time when doctors didn’t use stethoscopes – and, yet, “in the early 1800’s, prior to the development of the stethoscope, physicians would perform physical examinations using techniques such as percussion and immediate auscultation. In immediate auscultation, physicians placed their ear directly on the patient to observe internal sounds.”
- Pulse Oximeters – The use of pulse oximeters to measure a patient’s oxygenation is ubiquitous in hospitals – one can hardly think of entering a patient’s room and not seeing the familiar probe clipped onto the patient’s finger.
What current technologies should be adopted to help improve patient safety and care?