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Nurses Often Left Out of Medical Error Talks

Study finds excluding them from discussions impacts patients, families

THURSDAY, Jan. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Nurses want to, and should be, included in the discussion when physicians talk to patients about serious medical mistakes that were made, a new study shows.

The study, published in the January issue of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety, said nurses play a critical role with the patient and leaving them out of such discussions weakens the disclosure experience for the patient or their family. For example, excluding nurses from disclosure planning sessions can inadvertently make them appear evasive when later questioned by patients or patients' families.

"Improving the quality of error disclosure to patients is a top priority in health care," study author Sarah E. Shannon, vice associate dean for academic services in the University of Washington School of Nursing, said in a commission news release. "Error disclosure needs to be a team sport. This means quickly sharing information among the team about the error: what happened; why it occurred; what is being done to mitigate potential harm and prevent future errors; and what the patient has been told, will be told, and when."

As a result, the authors call for a team disclosure process that follows established policies allowing nurses and other caregivers into the mix. They also suggest training be provided about how to talk to patients and families about errors.

The study, which surveyed almost 100 nurses, found that while they discussed mistakes within their control with their patients, they were reticent to talk and disclose about others' mistakes that affected the patient, although they would want more of a role in that process. Being left out of the disclosure process may contribute to moral distress, less job satisfaction and increased job turnover, the authors said.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about how patients can help prevent medical errors.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: Joint Commission Resources, news release, January 2009

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