How Do Nurses Ensure Patient Safety and Quality of Care?

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In Australia, there are more than 303,000 registered nurses. Nurses are essential health professionals who are there to care for people in all health settings, but what does a nurse do on a day-to-day basis to ensure patient safety and quality of care? Let’s find out.

Clinical Governance

It is critical to ensure that everyone from frontline clinicians including nurses is accountable to patients in the community for assuring the delivery of health services that are safe, effective, high quality, and continuously improving. The National Model Clinical Governance Framework is in place to ensure a shared responsibility that all patients receive the best possible care. A nurse’s goal in this context is to optimise patient care which includes the all-important aspect of safety.

Safety

Nurses are required to participate in hospital processes that support all patient’s safety. This includes reporting incidents whether they be potentially hazardous, a near miss, or an incident that results in injury. This could also incorporate ensuring appropriately escalating patient safety issues to management. This could be something brought to your attention by the patient or something you have observed.

Training

Nurses contribute to the training and development of new nurses by supervising junior members of the workforce who are required to provide direct patient care. They take part in regular performance appraisals and undertake ongoing learning opportunities as technology and medicine continue to advance. Nurses who are looking to upskill themselves can look into undertaking further studies which could include a Graduate Certificate in Nursing. These courses are designed specifically to cater to those already in the industry to support transforming the delivery of healthcare in Australia.

Patient Handover

After each shift, a nurse spends time providing a thorough handover process to the nurse taking over the care of each of their patients. Nurses surveyed in Queensland and Victoria largely agreed that handover is a key element of patient safety and the quality of care they receive. Many agreed where possible active patient participation is vital so they are aware of their care plan.

Different Nurses & Different Care Provided

As mentioned above, there are 3 main types of nurses in Australia.

Enrolled Nurse

There are more than 54,100 enrolled nurses throughout Australia. An enrolled nurse or EN will have completed a 2-year Diploma of Nursing course. An EN will work under the supervision of a Registered Nurse and cannot act alone. Typical care that an EN can supply includes recording patient vitals and providing interventions that include treatments and therapies from the patients’ care plans. This can involve the administration of medicine, but only whilst being monitored. They may also assist with health education activities for the patient and help a patient with daily living support.

Registered Nurse

As of writing, there are over 303,000 registered nurses (RNs) in Australia. An RN will complete a 3-year Bachelor of Nursing or a 2-year Master of Nursing through a university. RNs will provide a quality of care that includes assessing patients, developing a care plan, administration of medicine, and supervising ENs and junior RNs. An RN will also ensure the best possible care and undertake regular professional development activities.

Nurse Practitioner

More than 2,200 nurse practitioners in Australia who are RNs have received an endorsement from the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) to obtain the title. NPs must have 5,000 hours of experience at an advanced clinical nursing practice level in the past 6 years and comply with the NMBA’s nursing standards for practice. NPs practice independently in an advanced clinical role.

Monitoring Patients

No matter the title, all nurses have the task of monitoring patients to ensure they remain well. A patient’s medical condition can change in a split second. This means nurses are staying constantly vigilant of their patients so they can quickly identify any complications as they arise. Patient observation for vital signs (respiratory rate, pulse, blood pressure, temperature, and level of consciousness) will be checked three times daily as a minimum, with unstable patients needing more frequent or continual monitoring.

Educating Patients

Nurses always endeavor to provide information to the patient about their care in the hospital along with their aftercare once they leave the hospital. Teaching a patient the requirements to support themselves in their journey to health is incredibly important as the nurse hopes with the right knowledge the patient will not need to return.

Discharge Procedures

During a hospital stay, a nurse has a high level of control over a patient’s compliance with their treatment plan. Like with the education factor above, providing a thorough discharge procedure can assist the patient (and family) from making incorrect assumptions about continued treatment upon leaving the hospital. Nurses will aim to develop an ongoing care plan that will include upcoming appointments, a description of medications, and a medication schedule that will include the dosage and frequency. The plan should also include names and numbers of whom to call should the patient have further questions or concerns.

Nurses have a challenging yet highly rewarding job – they work selflessly for the betterment of their patients and community by providing quality care to all patients no matter how hard they work to always keep everyone safe. The above are just a few ways that nurses ensure patient care and safety.

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