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Reporting when standards fall short

October 26, 2015

Healthcare workers know that there are various guidelines and protocol in place to keep both them and their patients safe. However, working in a stressful and busy environment means that it's possible for standards to sometimes fall short.

Although in most instances this will probably have no long-term consequences, in the case of sharps safety, not following the proper guidelines can put the safety of both healthcare workers and patients in jeopardy.

However, especially for new and inexperienced nurses and other healthcare workers, it can be difficult to know how to approach a scenario where a colleague has done something that is clearly not in line with the recommended practices. This becomes especially challenging when the member of staff falling below standards is more experienced or a superior.

No matter how experienced or senior the healthcare worker is, it's essential that instances of sub-standard care is highlighted.

However, those who are new to the profession, a hospital or even their role, may feel unsure about what to do and fear being ostracised if they speak out against another member of staff. So how can you best go about addressing such a situation?

Speak to them

Confronting or challenging a person about their conduct in front of other colleagues or patients is unlikely to get a positive response. Doing this will look like you are undermining them professionally, and few doctors or nurses are likely to view this in an understanding way.

Instead, speak to them away from other people but be careful about the way you go about it. It's important that you approach the matter in the right way. Remember the main objective is always to safeguard patients and ensure the highest standard of care is delivered to them wherever possible.

Try and understand why they were doing what they were doing, and use this to spark a conversation. Avoid using confrontational language and remain calm throughout your conversation. Being new and inexperienced can be an advantage as you can approach it as just trying to improve and expand your own skills, instead of challenging theirs.

If the member of staff in question is experienced, it may just be that theirs is a more traditional approach, instead of them deliberately doing something that endangers or puts a patient at risk.

Talk to management

Once you have spoken to the healthcare worker in question, it's important to give them the benefit of the doubt. It may be that it was just a one-off and if it wasn't serious there may be no need to take the matter further. However, if it happens again, you should take your complaint further up the chain of command.

You may feel disloyal about doing this, but it's important that all matters affecting patient safety are addressed and resolved wherever necessary.

If you are in doubt about what to do, speak to your manager about what happened and they can advise you about what the next steps should be.

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