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Patient Safety Advances Lagging

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, April 8, 2014

A decade after the release of an IOM report warning of serious threats to patient safety associated with nurses' work environments, things haven't changed as much as might have been expected.

One might think that these words heard a decade ago, "The typical work environment of nurses is characterized by many serious threats to patient safety" would have sounded an alarm for nurses and healthcare organizations to do everything they could to improve safety and quality.

But ten years after the release of an IOM report on patient safety, things haven't changed as much as might have been expected. "While we've moved in the right direction, we're not there yet," says said Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Senior Program Officer Maryjoan D. Ladden, PhD, RN, FAAN. "Ten years seems like a very long time to not be there."

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has released an issue brief examining how nurses' work environments have changed in the years since that IOM report was released—and also what hasn't changed. The brief, Ten Years After Keeping Patients Safe: Have Nurses' Work Environments Been Transformed? says, "despite notable achievements in improving healthcare quality since that time, patients remain at risk of serious harm."

"Any time an issue like quality and safety is raised, it's extremely important to keep it alive," Ladden says, adding that IOM reports like these get a lot of money and resources poured into them and get a lot of attention when they're first released. But then, they can have the tendency to sit on the shelf.

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