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Nurses Coming Clean on Hospitals Not Up to Par

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Consumer Reports recently conducted a study on hospital conditions. It may not shock you that hospitals aren’t as safe or as sanitary as they claim to be, but it probably will surprise you to know that it’s nurses who are telling the truth about the conditions of emergency rooms, critical-care units, operating rooms, and other areas of hospitals.

Consumer Reports surveyed a national sample of 731 nurses in the spring of 2008 and 2009. Additionally, Consumer Reports also received information from 13,540 patients or their family members about a hospital stay during 2007. Overall, the results of the study showed that 4% of patients were dissatisfied with cleanliness, 13% said care wasn’t coordinated properly and 5% said hospital staff members did not wash their hands before treating a patient. Shockingly, nurses were even more dissatisfied with cleanliness, with 28% reporting having witnessed problems in this area. Moreover, 38% of nurses reported that there were problems with coordination of proper care and 26% said hospital staff members did not always wash their hands prior to caring for a patient.

Consumer Reports suggests that patients focus on the following areas to ensure they receive the best possible care from beginning to end:

· Do your homework—only 11% of patients surveyed reported having chosen a hospital because of its record in treating their condition. Contrarily, 65% of patients went to a doctor affiliated with their primary care physician, 40% chose a hospital based on its location and 28% chose a hospital because it was in their health plan’s network.

· Plan for a smooth admission—be your own record keeper. The leading cause of preventable injury for hospital patients is medication errors, specifically medication mixing. When a patient transfers frequently from one ward to another, it is easy for doctors and other hospital staff to lose track of what medications a particular patient has already been given. This is especially true for hospitals that lack a comprehensive electronic records system.

· Avoid chaotic care—when hospital staffers fail to communicate properly, multiple tests and treatments can be ordered unnecessarily. If you, as a patient, notice that coordination between doctors and other staffers is poor, it is your job to contact an advocate of some sort: social workers and case managers can be particularly helpful. According to the Consumer Reports survey, only 9% of patients and 17% of relatives followed through in making a phone call for help when they received poor coordination of care..

· Stay vigilant when you witness problems—if you see that hospital staff aren’t washing their hands before approaching you, ask them to do so. 26% of nurses said they witnessed handwashing lapses. Furthermore, 7% of patients reported having developed an infection after leaving the hospital.

· Plan ahead for your discharge—understand the plans for your discharge. Again, if you need help, contact a patient advocate such as a social worker or case manager for help. Also, see your primary care physician within a week of your discharge and make sure they have a copy of your hospital records.

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  1. Mike Bryant says:
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    A growing issue of concern as we learn more about what is happening in places we go to get better. Thanks for the helpful information.