Best Ways to Defuse Patient Safety Incidents

By: Yolanda Smith – MedicalSearch Writer
11 December, 2014

Every day is unique in a clinical setting and it is impossible to predict every outcome that could occur, but some unexpected incidents have the potential to harm patients receiving medical care.

It might be a surgery complication, a drug error, or an incident involving the behavior of another patient; there are many events that could threaten patient safety.

Ideally we would avoid such events and we should certainly endeavour to prevent them, but in reality they – or very near misses – occur frequently.

All health professionals should be equipped with an understanding of and ability to deal with these situations in the best way possible as they arise.

Acknowledge the situation professionally

Not all incidents are identical and therefore cannot be handled in the same way. However, there are some general principles that will help to defuse incidents and reduce the long-term effects.

It is important to remain calm and to consider the events in a logical manner. If possible, refrain from placing blame on any individuals and focus on improving the current situation.

Being aware of your actions and how they will affect others involved in the incident is also essential. In times of stress, other patients will look to health professionals for cues on how to react.

Read about how to handle incidents arising from abusive patient behaviour

Calmly consider possible solutions

Health professionals are under obligation to act and remedy the situation wherever possible.

In the heat of the moment, decisions are often made without properly thought being given to the repercussions of actions taken. Where possible, take the time to calmly consider the best action.

Prioritisation is key in crisis decision making. You need to decide quickly which aspect of the incident requires immediate attention in order to minimise the damage to all parties involved.

Record details of the incident

When a patient safety incident occurs it is essential to record the details for both legal purposes and for general future reference.

This is the ultimate source of information to improve the quality of clinical care at your practice. When data about patient safety incidents is collected – both those that caused actual harm and near misses – we can establish patterns about these events and can then endeavor to prevent future recurrences.

It is best to describe all details you can remember about the event in an objective manner by noting exactly what you experienced.

These ways to defuse patient safety incidents may help establish a health system with fewer incidents threatening patient safety and better management of those that do occur.