Safety first: Hospital ranks number one when it comes to health and safety of patients |

Safety first: Hospital ranks number one when it comes to health and safety of patients

Mary Beth TeSelle
Special to The Union

Each year in the United States, millions of patients experience some type of hospital-acquired infection, injury or illness while hospitalized. These incidents include everything from surgery-related infections, to adverse drug reactions, to falls, and even bed sores.

Health care industry experts believe that incidents could be dramatically reduced if health care providers adhered to strict safety and quality control practices.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, an arm of the Department of Health and Human Services, has sought to drive such improvement and large health care organizations are responding with their own initiatives.

Locally, Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital has shown impressive success in their safety and quality measures.

Seven years ago, SNMH joined the other 38 hospitals in Dignity Health to work toward keeping patients safer as part of an initiative called the No Harm campaign.

“As an organization, Dignity Health committed to improving patient safety in 26 different focus areas,” explains Alex Hendriksen, Quality and Patient Safety Manager at SNMH. “These areas include reducing things like in-hospital falls, surgical site infections, hospital-acquired blood clots, and lowering the number of patients who need to be readmitted.”

SNMH’s results were consistently ranked near the top and for the last several months, they have ranked number one out of all the Dignity Health hospitals.

“As a hospital, we are incredibly proud of our success in keeping our patients healthy and safe while we care for them,” Hendriksen says. “At SNMH, we take our job of caring for our friends and families in our community very seriously. We care for them as though they are part of our family, and that commitment comes through clearly in our dedication to their health and safety.”

Hendriksen credits the hospital’s success in the No Harm campaign to a systematic, collaborative approach to safety items identified through the campaign.

“It starts with work groups, or committees, which address each of the focus areas,” he explains. “The work groups meet monthly to review the data and identify ways to improve on each the issues. One of the key players in driving these initiatives is definitely the nursing workforce because they spend the most time providing direct care to the patient. The nursing leadership at the hospital has certainly promoted and encouraged committees and teams comprised of front-line nursing staff to come up with solutions practical to their workflow.”

SNMH Operating Room nurse Tess Kirstine believes the hospital’s success is due to a commitment to high quality care that has safety at its core.

“It is a system of checks and balances,” she explains. “The measures we take in the OR prevent wrong site/side procedures from being done and allows everyone in the room to acknowledge all pertinent information to the care of each patient.”

These measures include actively identifying the patient, their procedure, the surgery site, and potential allergies with the entire surgical team, as well as monitoring the instruments and sponges in use.

Other steps taken to reduce complications may include: To reduce adverse drug reactions, procedures may be adjusted to ensure the right medication, dosage and timing are used.

To minimize hospital-acquired infections, hygiene (for both caregivers and visitors) may be examined, as well as sterilization of instruments and tools, and monitoring appropriate antibiotic usage.

For many focus areas, clearer communication between caregiver and patient can help to reduce potential risks.

SNMH Chief Nurse Executive Monica Biley says the success SNMH has demonstrated in patient safety really delivers on the core of our mission at SNMH.

“Creating a consistent and positive patient experience that assures quality care delivered in ways that protect patient and employee safety is foundational to our mission,” Biley explains. “We are committed to delivering compassionate health services and know that hospital- and system-wide efforts to measure and improve the patient experience can increase the effectiveness of the care we provide and improve patient outcomes. Our most important goal is to improve the quality of life of those we serve.”

Hendriksen believes part of SNMH’s success is due to the dynamic between the hospital and the community.

“One of the factors that makes our facility unique as a community hospital is that Sierra Nevada has a Board of Directors comprised of community members,” Hendriksen explains. “That board is responsible for supervising the quality of care that our hospital delivers. They have the added responsibility and take great pride in ensuring that we maintain our Nevada County identity while holding the hospital accountable for advancing care into the modern age of medicine.”

For patients, that accountability translates to peace of mind when it comes to their health care.

“Patients should feel confident knowing that when you come to Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, your health and safety are our highest priority,” Hendriksen says. “And we are proud of our success rates to back that up!”

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