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Hospital infections and errors and their prevention
Over the past decades, the field of modern medicine has continued to evolve in complexity and therefore delivering the right, and the proper care to patients within the modern medical set up has entirely proven to be challenging. The medical technologies and procedures for treating the patients have become more sophisticated over the time to which it is a good thing by itself although it may entail more significant levels of competency on the delivering personnel such as the medical staff, which might not be readily forthcoming. Furthermore, the choice among the available medical services in the current market can sometimes appear to be bewildering. Making the story short, a large number of the medications of choice tend to possess a narrow margin of safety, and some of the experts have expressed their concern that modern medicine has become more intrinsically unwieldy for the individuals to deal with on their daily routine activities. Due to the inability to deal with modern medicine, it is not surprising that the incidences of the medical errors appear to be on the increase (Merry and Warren).
People make mistakes as the human is to error. Iatrogenic mortality that is the deaths that are caused by medical care or medical treatment is now one of the leading causes of death in the United States taking the third position (Stoddart et al. 27-64). Majority of the errors are medication related and happened in the hospital setting, creating potential harm to around 1.5 million individuals who are lucky to escape death. A medical error can be defined as the preventable adverse effects of medical care whether or not evident or causing harm to the patient. Often seen as the human error factor in the healthcare, is a highly complex subject to which encompasses significant factors such as inadequate education or experience, incompetency, language barriers, illegible handwriting, negligence, poor documentation as well as fatigue among the healthcare providers. Also, there are also many types of errors that range from misdiagnosis, medication errors, under an overtreatment and the surgical mishaps. Medical errors can even get to be associated with new procedures, extreme ages, urgency as well as the severity of the condition to which the patient is seeking to be treated.
Hospitals are indeed a place where lives are saved, but sometimes they tend to hurt the people who turn to them in seeking medication, to the extent of even causing death to the victims. The reason behind is because just like us the doctors and the nurses make significant mistakes both knowingly and out of consciousness (Plews-Ogan et al. 233-241). Even the seemingly tiny mistakes are most likely to cause infection along with other medical problems that may jeopardize the lives of the patients making the toll taken by the medical errors to be huge than any one of us can imagine. Infections are a major concern in the hospitals; the CDC has an estimate that around 722,000 healthcare-acquired infections occurred in the year 2011to which about 75,000 of the patients died. The high rates of the number of deaths of the patients to which otherwise could have been prevented have aroused the campaign for infections in hospitals that arise from the smaller mistakes done by the healthcare providers. Dirty hands are also recorded to be one of the fatal errors done in the hospitals. One of the most significant tools to which are aimed at the protection of the patients against the hospital-acquired infections also happens to be the simplest, and that is hand washing with soap. The healthcare providers are supposed to wash their hands immediately before they are about to touch a patient and after operating on one patient.
Catheters and tubes are some of the essentials that hospitalized patients require to sustain their lives in hospitals. The catheters, as well as the tubes, may contain infectious germs to which provide a more straightforward route of infection to the patient through insertion to the vital organ (Chauhan et al. 525). Poor storage of the catheters may lead them to the contraction and contamination of their surfaces with germs to which later can be passed to the patients. Keeping instruments safe will go a long way in preventing contamination and the consequent germ infections to the patients. Sedation can also be lethal. Sedation should only be applied if it is essential to avoid any incidence of death from the patient. The small errors may cost the life a loved one if keen interest is not taken into consideration. It can be possible to ease the patient’s anxiety or pain without generally the application of anesthesia.
In the attempt of making sure that the smaller mistakes are not committed, some of the places in the hospitals such as the wards and the intensive care units need the presence of an expert to provide care and the necessary services. A critical care specialist may be required to provide care to a person who is in the ICU as failure to get attention from a specialized professional may increase the chances of death by 30% (Kelley and Sean747-755). The primary care doctors, as well as the surgeons, are great, but the critical care specialists have all it takes to offer to the intensive care unit patients the best shot at survival ensuring minimal cases of errors from the various departments. Central line infections can also result from the placement of catheters in the large veins such as the neck, chest or even the groin in the event of extended care. Although they can save a life such as during dialysis, it can also set the stage for the deadly bloodstream infections. The center for disease control provided an estimate that around 41,000 United States hospital patients along with other 37,000 kidney dialysis patients suffer from the central line-associated bloodstream infections each year to which almost all of them are preventable.
The blood clot can kill, and the hospital patients tend to be highly vulnerable to the blood clots as they spend a lot of time lying in their beds to which may cause blood stagnation in the body. The blood stagnation in the body may have the impact of the deep vein thrombosis (Marsh). If the clot travels from the legs to the lungs, circulation is blocked to which can be lethal if not treated a condition to which is referred to as the pulmonary embolism. The blood clots have been estimated to have claimed the lives of more than 100,000 patients each year. Majority of the patients who are considered at risk for the mentioned condition are those who are hospitalized for surgery, treatment for trauma, cancer treatment as well as the overweight patients. The good news is that the risk for deep vein thrombosis can be significantly reduced through special stockings as well as the compression devices to which are attached to the legs. Heparin is an anticoagulant that aids in preventing clotting and therefore can be used to stop the clots from forming through its administration.
Medication errors can also be deadly (Bogner). The drug mistakes are often common during the transitions of care that may involve changing rooms and during the time of discharge. The transition may bring about the confusion among the healthcare providers to which a patient may be provided drugs that belongs to another patient. The best way to curb the risk of medication errors is through bringing along to the hospital a list of all the medications the patients have been taking including the over the counter drugs and any supplements. It is also essential for the patient to ask what the new medication is and the reason for receiving it, such that they are aware to be taking the right medication. Communication is an essential component in health provision for both the health provider and the patents in the hospital. Communicating the medical history of the patient is important. Through communication, the healthcare provider can assess the patient’s condition with ease and even prevent the aspect of medication errors.
Inadequate experience or lack of education may go an extra mile of increasing the errors that result in the hospitals (Hayes et al.). There are often surgical procedures that need to be performed to the patients in the hospitals. A healthcare provider with little or no experience in surgery may end up increasing the probability of death of the patient as he is not aware of what exactly needs to be operated and how it should be done. The result of this may be working on the wrong parts that did not need any surgery or more complications to the areas being operated. To reduce the chances of the surgical errors that result from low experience, the presence of a professional surgeon on the field of expertise may be required to guide the surgery or even carry out the operation by himself, to which may reduce the risk of making trial and error. Illegible handwriting cannot be left behind as a major contributor to the medical errors that are deemed to happen in the hospitals. It is well known that the doctor’s handwriting is not legible to everyone and this might be the case to some of the care providers in the hospital. After the diagnosis by a doctor, the patient is directed to the pharmacy to where they expect to be provided with drugs. In the cases where the Pharmacists is not able to read the writings, he or she may end up giving the wrong drugs to the patient a situation that may be fatal. In the quest to prevent the false prescriptions of the drugs it would be better if the doctors used better handwriting that would not leave the person issuing the drugs straining and making some wrong guesses. Making guesses may make the person incompetent for the job whereas the mistake is not his and this may have fatal consequences for the patients.
Communication barriers such as language and inability to talk may also contribute adding up the errors practiced in the hospital. In the cases where a patient is not able to communicate his feeling properly to the doctor, it may lead to inappropriate diagnosis, and if surgery were done, the wrong organs would be operated leading to errors. To avoid such cases of the language barrier, an interpreter may be present to convey the message to the doctor to aid in diagnosis and therefore preventing wrong inferences as well as conclusions. Inaccurate documentation along with gross negligence is subject to making errors, especially during transitions. An original data entered wrongly will lead to consecutive mistakes to the people who want to reference from the data, and therefore the person entering the data should be focused enough to avoid the little mistakes that may end up messing with the whole institution.
Fatigue can be attributed to overworking of the staff especially as a result of low staff count in the hospitals (Blouin et al. 329-335). The reduced personals in the healthcare provision institutions to which have a large number of patients may overwhelm the staff increasing the chances of making errors. Reduced staff count is accompanied by long working hours providing with the respective health provider with little or no time to rest. The human brain works best when there is no fatigue and also subject to errors when fatigue strikes. To reduce the incidences of fatigue the government may be forced to employ and train new staffs who will boost the workforce ensuring that rotation and shifts in work have been achieved.
The patients, on the other hand, can reduce hospital infections and errors through various ways. For one, they are advised to maintain their medical record that includes the current medications carrying along whenever they are seeking health services. The record will reduce the errors by eliminating guesswork on the history of the patient. Also, the patients are advised to minimize and avoid hospitalization whenever it is possible and otherwise seek home-based care or an outpatient basis as this will help reduce congestion in the hospitals leading to minimal chances of making errors. The maintenance of personal hygiene is also essential to the reduction of infection in hospitals to both the patient and the healthcare provider. Personal hygiene can be achieved through hand washing and sanitization.
Hospital errors and infections have gone a long way to claiming most of the lives of the patients in the hospitals, most of which could be prevented. It seems very awkward to the current generation of improved technology that we still experience massive deaths and infections that are brought about by minor mistakes such as misdiagnosis, illegible handwriting, and poor hygiene along with incompetent and low staff shortages. Proper storage of treatment equipment’s such as needles, tubes, and catheters should keep in a place that is free from contamination such that infections such as line infections can be reduced. Also, surgical procedures should be done by a professional and the equipment sterilized to reduce the chances of infection.
Blouin, Ann Scott, et al. “Caregiver fatigue: implications for patient and staff safety, part 1.” Journal of Nursing Administration 46.6 (2016): 329-335.
Bogner, Marilyn Sue. Human error in medicine. CRC Press, 2018.
Chauhan, Ashwini, Jean-Marc Ghigo, and Christophe Beloin. “Study of in vivo catheter biofilm infections using pediatric central venous catheter implanted in rat.” Nature protocols11.3 (2016): 525.
Hayes, Carolyn, et al. “Medication errors in hospitals: a literature review of disruptions to nursing practice during medication administration.” Journal of clinical nursing 24.21-22 (2015): 3063-3076.
Kelley, Amy S., and R. Sean Morrison. “Palliative care for the seriously ill.” New England Journal of Medicine 373.8 (2015): 747-755.
Marsh, Kelly. “Deep Venous Thrombosis in Surgical Orthopedic Patients.” (2015).
Merry, Alan, and Warren Brookbanks. Merry and Mccall Smith’s Errors, Medicine and the Law. Vol. 38. Cambridge University Press, 2017.
Plews-Ogan, Margaret, et al. “Wisdom in medicine: what helps physicians after a medical error?.” Academic Medicine 91.2 (2016): 233-241.
Stoddart, G. L., and R. G. Evans. “Producing health, consuming health care.” Why are some people healthy and others not?. Routledge, 2017. 27-64.