Reflective accounts

Situation awareness

Reading a CPD article improved Bing Raz’s knowledge of the use of situation awareness to enhance patient safety.

Reading a CPD article improved Bing Raz’s knowledge of the use of situation awareness to enhance patient safety

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What was the nature of the CPD activity, practice-related feedback and/or event and/or experience in your practice?

The article examined the concept of situation awareness, which involves an individual’s perception and subsequent projection of events taking place in the surrounding environment. Interpreting information from the environment can assist nurses to improve outcomes and minimise the risk of errors.

What did you learn from the CPD activity, feedback and/or event and/or experience in your practice?

Before reading the article, I was unfamiliar with the concept of situation awareness, which I learned involves a group of non-technical skills such as teamwork and communication.

The article outlined the three levels of cognitive performance required to develop situation awareness: perception of elements in the environment, comprehension of the current situation, and how nurses can anticipate events by using their experience.

I learned that several factors can influence situation awareness, including context, individual tasks and cognitive limitations, and how distractions can lead to errors. 

The article discussed how nurses’ workload can affect situation awareness; for example, busy shifts or high caseloads may increase stress and lead to nurses having reduced awareness of their environment.

How did you change or improve your practice?

The article detailed how interruptions can increase the likelihood of errors occurring. For example, having read the article I realised the importance of wearing a ‘do not disturb’ apron while undertaking medicine rounds. 

These aprons are provided by many organisations to prevent patients and relatives interrupting nurses during drug calculations and administration. I will ensure these aprons continue to be used in my practice in an attempt to prevent errors.

I also intend to monitor my situation awareness by considering factors such as fatigue, skill levels, language barriers and anxiety. One way of improving situation awareness that I will consider for my practice is using checklists and checking protocols. The article emphasised these are useful in overcoming distractions and interruptions.

How is this relevant to the Code? Select one or more themes: Prioritise people, Practise effectively, Preserve safety, Promote professionalism and trust

The Code states nurses must communicate clearly with colleagues. The article stated communication is vital in maintaining situation awareness, and may involve a nurse explaining their ‘mental model’ of a situation and communicating their intended actions to other members of the multidisciplinary team.

One of the main benefits of situation awareness is that it has the potential to reduce the risk of errors. The Code emphasises nurses must be aware of and reduce any potential for harm associated with their practice, reducing the likelihood of errors.

Bing Raz is an agency nurse based in London

This reflective account is based on NS840 Gluyas H, Harris S-J (2016) Understanding situation awareness and its importance in patient safety. Nursing Standard. 30, 34, 50-58 

Write your own reflective account

You can gain a certificate of learning by reading a Nursing Standard CPD article and writing a reflective account. To write a reflective account for Nursing Standard, use the NMC reflective accounts form. Complete the four questions about a CPD article you have read, writing about 700 words in total.

The authors of reflective accounts that are published in Nursing Standard receive a £50 book token. Details of how to submit your reflective account for publication are available here.

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