Silence among Health-Care Workers Puts Patients at Risk

It is well-established that preventable medical errors are far too common and prove fatal to hundreds of thousands of patients each year. Although it is encouraging that some hospitals have taken preventative steps such as patient checklists or automated medication dispensing systems, a new study shows that poor communication among nurses still contributes to a significant number of hospital errors.

A survey of 6,500 nurses and nurse managers across the United States found that nurses often fail to alert their colleagues when they see a safety measure being violated. About 85 percent of nurses admitted to working with people that took dangerous shortcuts, such as not washing their hands for long enough. But they failed to speak up to prevent patient harm.

The study also found that incompetence and disrespect among hospital workers also contribute to communication breakdowns. More than one-third of participants reported witnessing incompetence that put a patient's life at risk, but very few actually voiced their concerns.

This data shows that even when preventative measures are taken, communication failures undermine their effectiveness. The result is a dangerous hospital environment that leaves patients at risk for harm.

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