Heather Gluyas

Understanding the human and system factors involved in medication errors

Understanding the human and system factors involved in medication errors

A solution-focused approach based on evidence underpinning the knowledge of medication errors

nurse washing her hands

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Lapses in hand washing are common – so recognising them is essential for patient safety

Understanding errors

Errors in the nursing management of a deteriorating patient

Effective management of the deteriorating patient requires early recognition of the signs of deterioration, timely review and appropriate interventions. However, this does not always occur. Errors in the recognition and management of a deteriorating patient are rarely related to a single factor; rather they are a complex interaction of system and human factors. This article presents a case study focusing on understanding the factors that led to errors resulting in the death of a patient. Understanding the complex interaction of system and human factors enables the identification of strategies that could be used to decrease the likelihood of a similar incident occurring.

Understanding situation awareness and its importance in patient safety

Situation awareness describes an individual’s perception, comprehension and subsequent projection of what is going on in the environment around them. The concept of situation awareness sits within the group of non-technical skills that include teamwork, communication and managing hierarchical lines of communication. The importance of non-technical skills has been recognised in safety-critical industries such as aviation, the military, nuclear, and oil and gas. However, health care has been slow to embrace the role of non-technical skills such as situation awareness in improving outcomes and minimising the risk of error. This article explores the concept of situation awareness and the cognitive processes involved in maintaining it. In addition, factors that lead to a loss of situation awareness and strategies to improve situation awareness are discussed.

Human factors and the death of a child in hospital: a case review

Learning from adverse events and errors is important if systems and processes are to be improved and to minimise the likelihood of similar events in the future. This article uses the report from a coroner’s inquest into the death of a seven-year-old child in hospital to examine errors that contributed to the child’s death. These errors are reviewed from a human factors perspective. The article provides an overview of error causation concepts and offers strategies that healthcare organisations can implement to reduce the incidence of such errors.

Patient-centred care: improving healthcare outcomes

Patient-centred care is a model of care that respects the patient’s experience, values, needs and preferences in the planning, co-ordination and delivery of care. A central component of this model is a therapeutic relationship between the patient and the team of healthcare professionals. The implementation of a patient-centred care model has been shown to contribute to improved outcomes for patients, better use of resources, decreased costs and increased satisfaction with care. This article provides an overview of the barriers to providing patient-centred care and identifies strategies that can be implemented to overcome them.

Effective communication and teamwork promotes patient safety

Teamwork requires co-operation, co-ordination and communication between members of a team to achieve desired outcomes. In industries with a high degree of risk, such as health care, effective teamwork has been shown to achieve team goals successfully and efficiently, with fewer errors. This article introduces behaviours that support communication, co-operation and co-ordination in teams. The central role of communication in enabling co-operation and co-ordination is explored. A human factors perspective is used to examine tools to improve communication and identify barriers to effective team communication in health care.

Understanding non-compliance with hand hygiene practices

Healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs) continue to be a challenge in developed and developing countries. Hand hygiene practice is considered to be the most effective strategy to prevent HCAIs, but healthcare workers’ compliance is poor. Using a human factors perspective, this article explores elements that affect healthcare workers’ hand hygiene compliance. Slips, lapses and mistakes can occur depending on the worker’s skills and knowledge levels. Violations of protocols may also occur, and these may be associated with the intention to provide care efficiently. Strong leadership and an understanding of why non-compliance with hand hygiene occurs assists with developing strategies to improve compliance.

Human factors and medication errors: a case study

Human beings are error prone. A significant component of human error is flaws inherent in human cognitive processes, which are exacerbated by situations in which the individual making the error is distracted, stressed or overloaded, or does not have sufficient knowledge to undertake an action correctly. The scientific discipline of human factors deals with environmental, organisational and job factors, as well as human and individual characteristics, which influence behaviour at work in a way that potentially gives rise to human error. This article discusses how cognitive processing is related to medication errors. The case of a coronial inquest into the death of a nursing home resident is used to highlight the way people think and process information, and how such thinking and processing may lead to medication errors.