Thursday, November 30, 2006

Nurses empowered to keep patients safe

Because of the inconsistent nature of vaccine supply and sporadic interest on the part of the general population, administering flu and pneumococcal shots in the hospital is an is an effective way to protect the older and chronically ill population from flu and pneumococcal disease, both of which can lead to hospitalization and even death.

That’s why it’s important that nurses remain aware that they are now empowered to give these shots without individual physician orders. Legislation was passed in 2005 allowing this important patient safety initiative to move forward.

At Backus Hospital, there is a physician-approved policy in place that allows nurses to vaccinate the older and chronically ill population – flu shots to patients 50 and older, and pneumonia shots to patients 65 and older.

“This is an important component of good medicine, and an opportunity for our nurses to identify and help patients at risk,” said Joseph Hughes, Director of Quality Improvement at Backus.

An average of 36,000 deaths and 200,000 hospitalizations related to flu occur in the U.S. each year.

Pneumococcal disease most commonly presents as a serious infection in the lungs (pneumonia), blood (bacteremia), or brain (meningitis). It kills more people in the U.S. each year than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined.

With the height of the flu season just around the corner, nurses should keep this hospital protocol in mind for every potential patient, said Karen Long, RN, Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer.

“Both of these diseases can cause severe illness and death, especially among the sometimes frail hospitalized population,” Ms. Long said. “This is an important patient safety measure that empowers our nurses to provide the best care to our patients.”

Peter Shea, MD, Medical Director, said hospital vaccination rates are a publicly reported quality measure.

“However, what it’s really about is keeping our patients healthy and safe,” he said.

Anyone with suggestions to help Backus improve patient safety can call Mary Bylone, RN, Assistant Vice President of Patient Care Services and Patient Safety Officer, at ext. 2771 or Mr. Hughes, at ext. 2345.


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