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Patient Safety Starts with Nurse Managers

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, October 2, 2012

It's easier to fix a mistake—and ensure that the mistake doesn't happen again—if you fess up right away. Every school kid comes to learn this truth, even if it's hard and uncomfortable to admit.

Nowhere is following this simple rule of life more crucial than in the healthcare arena, where mistakes are often a matter of life and death. The importance of admitting mistakes doesn't necessarily make the task of admitting them any easier—one might argue that it makes it harder.

But according to a study, something does make it easier for nurses to admit their on-the-job errors: feeling safe doing it. And what makes nurses feel safe? Their managers.

Researchers surveyed 54 nursing teams in four hospitals in Belgium and found that nurses are more likely to report patient-care errors when they feel safe admitting them to their supervisors. That, in turn, leads to a lower overall error rate and a stronger commitment to safety protocols, according to the study in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

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