It’s the end of the year and I hope it’s been a good year for all of the nurses who belong to “Nurses for Nurses Network”. 2016 has been a time of reflection for me and a time to teach this old dog some new tricks. I am very much enjoying my new job at CQU and love being part of teaching the new nurses all of what I have learnt over the years. One of my main passions is as a patient advocate. When nurses say they are patient advocates most think only of speaking out or for patients when advocating for a treatment (or not) with physicians. But being a patient advocate is so much more.
Every day new research is coming out that details how patient/staff ratios have a direct relationship with adverse events. Seasoned nurses already knew this but now it is written in blood and even industrially mandated in Queensland. Understaffing leads to poor patient outcomes. When we argue for adequate staffing it’s not so the nurse can sit at the end of the bed and file her nails, it’s so they have the time to deliver adequate care to the patients. Accountability requires a degree of availability, the availability of time to be able to be accountable. If the nurse doesn’t have time to double check the vital signs or the lab work, it’s difficult to be accountable. The same applies to bed availability, everyone knows about bed shortages and they have become so chronic that patients are placed anywhere there is a spot, even in a storeroom (true story). The actual practice of placing a patient in a ward where they should not be is incredibly dangerous and cannot be discarded. There are many reasons for this.
The nurses who are used to looking after a patient with a particular illness ( for instance a stroke patient) may not or do not have the knowledge base or skill to look after just any patient. This is just a fact of life. Our statistics for gold standard care for stroke patients is extremely poor because they are often not admitted to a specialist stroke ward because the ward if full of outliers. This statistics are real. These issues are real. It’s become so commonplace to just put a patient anywhere …… “a beds a bed”, that we, as nurses do not object. If we are to take our roles as patient advocates further we should object and ensure that our patients are nursed in their correct areas, where the nurses who are educated about their diseases will look after them, where their doctors will do rounds on them and where their signs and symptoms will be noticed and acted upon. Being a patient advocate transcends just advocating to a physician on their behalf, it means also looking out for them from the minute they arrive in our emergency room. Too many patients have died or suffered an adverse event because they have been nursed in the wrong area. It’s time to advocate even more for our patients. Let’s hope 2016 is a good one for everyone.
Merry Christmas and Happy 2016