Remembering the “Second Victims” of Medical Errors, Including Nurses
This week, May 6-13, is National Nurses Week. It's always important, but it's especially good to thank and recognize all of the talented, caring, hard working nurses out there.
Nursing is important, difficult work. Sadly, the work is made more difficult than it should be due to bad processes and waste in the healthcare system. I've always sympathized with nurses who are forced to jump through these hoops every day (often not getting a proper lunch break, as they should). I very much enjoy working with nurses who participate in Lean and Kaizen activities to help fix the systems they work in.
This article caught my eye yesterday: “Medical errors leave devastating impact on families, professionals.”
The first victims of medical errors, being harmed or killed, are, of course, the patients and their families.
Health care workers say they are traumatized by preventable errors in what's known as the “second victim” phenomenon. Doctors or nurses who struggle after a medical error, death of a child or other unexpected event can lose confidence, have flashbacks and feel like abandoning their careers.
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When so many problems are preventable, if we had better communication, processes, and systems, it's understandable why nurses (or others in healthcare) might be devastated when they are involved in a medical error.
Nobody comes to work with the intention to do a bad job.
We owe it to the patients to provide the best quality care. That's why we also owe it to nurses to not put them in a bad position where they might be involved in a systemic error. That's why we need error proofing instead of just asking people to be careful. We need to reduce waste to free up time so that nurses aren't fatigued or distracted, conditions that make errors more likely to occur.
When people ask me what motivates me about Lean healthcare – helping the nurses comes a close second after helping the patients.