Patient Safety Awareness Week March 2-8

Patient safety is an issue that all medical professionals need to address. Anesthesia is no different than anyone else. Malpractice attorneys just cannot wait for an anesthesia provider to make a mistake. According to attorneys Meyers, Evans and Associates, the most common causes of anesthesia error during surgery are:

1. Overdose or under dose of anesthesia

2. Delayed delivery of anesthesia

3. Failure to avoid an allergic reaction if it could have reasonably been prevented.

4. Drug interactions complications

5. Failure to properly administer oxygen during surgery

6. Failure to properly monitor the patient

7. Use of defective medical equipment during sedation

So now ask yourself, are you performing inadequate anesthesia? Are you doing your best to provide the safest anesthesia for your patients? Can you say that any of the above items you have been guilty of doing?

As an anesthesia clinician I think there are several other items that could be added to the above list.

1. Labeling of syringes: There are numerous occasions at numerous facilities where I will see that medications are not being labeled, dated or initialed. It is so easy to place a label on a syringe.

2. Poor hand hygiene: The use of gloves is not only a safety issue for the patient but it is also to protect you as a clinician. So many times gloves are not even used. When gloves are used then they are used improperly.

Think….after you intubate a patient do you immediately remove your gloves or do you grab the circuit, bag, or any other part of the anesthesia machine with gloves that have been contaminated with patient secretions? How many times have you reached for your pen or now the computer key board with dirty gloves on? Then do you foam or wash your hands when you take your gloves off? Do you foam or wash your hands in between patient contact?

3. IV ports:  IV tubing….where has it been? Draped over the end of the stretcher or on the floor while rolling the patient to the OR? Have no idea what has occurred with the IV tubing if the patient has come from the medical floor from within the hospital. This is why it is important to clean the IV ports prior to injecting medications. Those IV ports are exposed to everything.

Patient safety should not be an occasional thought. It should be at the forefront of each anesthetic that we administer from the pre-operative evaluation all the way through to patient’s discharge from PACU.

We must help to remind each other of the safety issues we face every day for our patients.

Remember, a lot of times we are the “gate keeper” for our patients to ensure their surgical experience is not only optimal but of the highest quality and safety.