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Found 37 results
  1. Event
    Patient Safety is an essential part of health and social care that aims to reduce avoidable errors and prevent unintended harm. Human Factors looks at the things that can affect the way people work safely and effectively, such as the optimisation of systems and processes, the design of equipment and devices used and the surrounding environment and culture, all of which are key to providing safer, high quality care. New for September 2020, this part-time, three year, distance learning course, from the Centre of Excellence Stafford, focuses specifically on Human Factors within the Health and Social Care sectors with the aim of helping health and social care professionals to improve performance in this area. The PgCert provides you with the skills to apply Human Factors to reduce the risk of incidents occurring, as well as to respond appropriately to health, safety or wellbeing incidents. Through the study of Human Factors, you will be able to demonstrate benefit to everyone involved, including patients, service users, staff, contractors, carers, families and friends. Further information
  2. News Article
    In many ways it is wrong to talk about the NHS restarting non-coronavirus care. A lot of it never stopped — births, for instance, cannot be delayed because of a pandemic. However, exactly what that care looks like is likely to be very different from what came before. There are more video and telephone consultations and staff treat patients from behind masks and visors. That is likely to be the case for some time, experts have told The Times. Read full story (paywalled) Source: The Times, 6 June 2020
  3. Content Article
    It's free, it's quick and it's easy. Connect on Zoom, Skype or FaceTime with a qualified psychologist, psychotherapist or counsellor at a time that suits you: confidential supportive non-judgemental accepting calming.
  4. Content Article
    So, what does it feel like working in chronically depleted staffing levels? "We are down three nurses today" – this is what I usually hear when I turn up for a shift. It has become the norm. We work below our template, usually daily, so much so that when we are fully staffed, we are expected to work on other wards that are ‘three nurses down’. Not an uncommon occurrence to hear at handover on a busy 50-bedded medical ward. No one seems to bat an eyelid; you may see people sink into their seat, roll their eyes or sigh, but this is work as usual. ‘Three nurses down’ has been the norm for months here, staff here have adapted to taking up the slack. Instead of taking a bay of six patients, the side rooms are added on making the ratio 1:9 or sometimes 1:10, especially at night. This splitting up the workload has become common practice on many wards. "That was a good shift" – no one died when they were not supposed to, I gave the medications, I documented care that we gave, I filled out all the paperwork that I am supposed to, I completed the safety checklists. Sounds a good shift? Thinking of Erik Hollnagel’s ‘work as done, work as imagined’ (Wears, Hollnagel & Braithwaite, 2015) – this shift on paper looks as if it was a ‘good shift’ but in fact: Medications were given late; some were not given at all as the pharmacy order went out late because we had a patient that fell. Care that was given was documented – most of the personal care is undertaken by the healthcare assistants (HCA) now and verbally handed over during the day – bowel movements, mobility, hygiene, mouth care, nutrition and hydration. As a nurse, I should be involved in these important aspects of my patients’ care, but I am on the phone sorting out Bed 3’s discharge home, calling the bank office to cover sickness, attending to a complaint by a relative. It’s being attended to by the HCA – so it's sorted? I have documented, probably over documented which has made me late home. I’m fearful of being reprimanded for the fall my patient had earlier on. This will be investigated and they will find out using my documentation what happened. The safety checklists have been completed for all my patients; comfort rounds, mouth care, falls proforma, bed rails assessment, nutritional score, cannular care plan, catheter care plan, delirium score, swallow test, capacity test, pre op assessments, pre op checklists, safe ward round checklist, NEWS charting, fluid balance charting and stool charting… the list is endless. Management have made things easier with the checklist ‘if it’s not written down it didn’t happen’ so now we can ‘tick’ against the check list rather than writing copious notes. However, I cut corners to enable me to complete all my tasks, some ticks are just ‘ticks’ when no work has been completed. No one would know this shift would they? What looks as if it has been a ‘good shift’ for the nurse, has often been the opposite for the patients and their family. There is a large body of research showing that low nurse staffing levels are associated with a range of adverse outcomes, notably mortality (Griffiths et al, 2018; Recio-Saucedo et al, 2018). What is the safest level of staff to care for patients? Safe staffing levels have been a long-standing mission of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)/Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in recent years. In the UK at present, nurse staffing levels are set locally by individual health providers. The Department of Health and professional organisations such as the RCN have recommended staffing levels for some care settings but there is currently no compliance regime or compulsion for providers to follow these when planning services (Royal College of Nursing 2019). I was surprised to find that there are no current guidelines on safe staffing within our healthcare system. It left me wondering… is patient safety a priority within our healthcare system? It seems not. While the debate and fight continues for safe staffing levels, healthcare staff continue to nurse patients without knowing what is and isn’t safe. Not only are the patients at risk and the quality of care given, but the registration of that nurse is also at risk. What impact does low staffing have on patients and families? ‘What matters to them’ does not get addressed. I shall never forget the time a relative asked me to get a fresh sheet for their elderly mother as there was a small spillage of soup on it. I said yes, but soon forgot. In the throes of medication and ward rounds, being called to the phone for various reasons, answering call buzzers, writing my documentation, making sure Doris doesn't climb out of bed again, escorting patients to and from the CT scanner, transferring patients to other wards – I forgot. My elderly patients’ daughter was annoyed, I remember she kept asking and I kept saying "in a minute", this made matters worse. She got annoyed, so that I ended up avoiding her altogether. How long does it take to give her the sheet? Five minutes tops, so why not get the sheet? MY priority was the tasks for the whole ward, tasks that are measured and audited on how well the ward performs by the Trust; filling out the observations correctly, adhering to the escalation policy, completing the 20 page safety booklet, completing the admission paperwork, ensuring everyone had their medication on time, making sure no one fell – changing a sheet with a small spot of soup on it was not on my priority list. It was a priority for my patients’ family. My patient was elderly, frail and probably wouldn’t get out of hospital alive this time. Her daughter was the only family she had left. It’s no wonder families feel that they are not listened to, are invisible, are getting in the way and not valued. These feelings do not encourage a healthy relationship between patients/families and healthcare workers. Studies have shown that involving patients and families in care is vital to ensure patient safety. Patients and their relatives have the greatest knowledge of patients and can often pick up subtle signs physiological deterioration before this is identified by staff or monitoring systems (O’dell et al, 2011). If our relationship is strained, how can we, as nurses, advocate for the safety of our patients? So, what impact does low staffing have on the staff member? "Fully staffed today!" The mood lifts at handover. People are sat up, smiling, quiet excitable chatter is heard. This uplifting sentence is quickly followed by either: "Let’s keep this quiet" or "someone will be moved" or "someone will have to move to XX ward as they are down three nurses". Morale is higher when wards are fully staffed. The mood is different. There are people to help with patient care, staff can take their breaks at reasonable times, staff may be able to get home on time and there is emotional support given by staff to other staff – a camaraderie. The feeling does not last long. Another department is ‘three nurses down’. Someone must move to cover the shortfall. No one wants to go When you get moved, you often get given the ‘heavy’ or ‘confused’ patients. Not only that, you are working with a different team with different dynamics – you are an outsider. This makes speaking up difficult, asking for help difficult, everything is difficult: the ward layout, where equipment is stored, where to find documentation, drugs are laid out differently in the cupboard, the clinical room layout is not the same. The risk of you getting something wrong has increased; this is a human factors nightmare, the perfect storm. I am in fear of losing my PIN (NMC registration) at times. At some point I am going to make a mistake. I can’t do the job I have been trained to do safely. The processes that have been designed to keep me and my patients safe are not robust. If anything, it is to protect the safety and reputation of the Trust, that’s what it feels like. Being fully staffed is a rarity. Being moved to a different department happens, on some wards more than others. Staff dread coming to work for threat of being moved into a different specialty. Just because you trained to work on a respiratory, doesn’t mean you can now work on a gynae ward. We are not robots you can move from one place to another. I can see that moving staff is the best option to ensure efficiency; but at what cost? Another problem in being chronically short staffed is that it becomes the norm. We have been ‘coping’ with three nurses down for so long, that ‘management’ look at our template. Is the template correct, we could save money here? If we had written guidance on safe staffing levels, we still have the problem of recruitment and retention of staff; there are not enough of us to go around. Thoughts please... Does this resonate with you? Has anyone felt that they feel ‘unsafe’ giving care? What power do we have as a group to address this issue of safe staffing levels? References 1. Wears RL, Hollnagel E, Braithwaite J, eds. The Resilience of Everyday Clinical Work. 2015. Farnham, UK: Ashgate. 2. Griffiths P et al. The association between nurse staffing and omissions in nursing care: a systematic review. Journal of Advanced Nursing 2018: 74 (7): 1474-1487. 3. Recio-Saucedo A et al. What impact does nursing care left undone have on patient outcomes? Review of the literature. Journal of Clinical Nursing 2018; 27(11-12): 2248-2259. 4. O’dell M et al. Call 4 Concern: patient and relative activated critical care outreach. British Journal of Nursing 2001; 19 (22): 1390-1395.
  5. Content Article
    Humans have not evolved to do medicine – or deal with complex machinery or systems. For the average (HF) scientist, it’s amazing how few errors occur and how a disinterested cave dweller (aka human) can work 12–18 hours, operate a machine (in many dimensions), and still get home safely at the end of the day. A short history of human factors HFs is a subdiscipline of both engineering and psychology. In respect of the psychology element, it is in the tradition of western performance measuring psychology. This measurement aims to aid productivity by identifying the best of the higher performing ‘cave dwellers’ for specific tasks. As we have all essentially evolved in the same ways and are not too far removed from our cave dweller ancestors, we should aim to design equipment that we can use now rather than waiting for evolution to enable us to use the kit. In this respect, HF is vital. In contrast to the western approach, the Soviet psychological tradition considers that all of us can be elevated to do any task. The background of this was that when the former Soviet Union industrialised rapidly in the 1920s they could not find the best of the higher performing ‘cave dwellers’ – as the majority were illiterate agrarian peasants. In the West, industrialisation was slow and there was time to find the best. A good example to illustrate this is the space programmes in the West compared to the Soviet Union. The United States tested people to find the best in the military whereas the Soviet Union advertised in the cotton mills “cosmonauts wanted”. Many say the Soviet tradition – also found in Scandinavian countries and in much of northern Europe – is a fair, humanitarian, way of thinking about humans, and the western method is there to divide the workers by exploiting them and getting them to produce more. This may explain my attachments to European medical establishments where I find everyone is happy! HFs is concerned with understanding how us ‘cave dwellers’ use our limited physiological skills and cognitive resources to achieve a task. The science is basic in that it attempts to understand, in principle, things like how our senses work, how our brain/mind filters the vast amount of information heading through those senses into the mind, and which bits are selectively attended to (or not). Humans tire easy, lose concentration, get distracted and are not exactly rational. Medication affects us in many ways, and aging and experience adds to the mix of human performance. That’s what HFs is about. If you ask in medicine, it’s about teamwork – or Crew Resource Management (CRM) – being nice to someone will stop any incident occurring. It’s non-technical skills – the idea that by watching someone’s behaviour (after expensive training) you can then understand their inner most cognitive processes and intentions. Or many different types of ‘psychobabble’, pet theories or simple weird ideas. HFs, being a science, relies on evidence and testing, and is interested in performance. HFs started not on the flight deck, or on the battlefield, but in medicine some 2000 years ago. The first HFs scholar was most likely a Greek doctor – him of the oath you all swear. He discusses how, for efficiency, tools and equipment are laid out in a way that is easy to use – that’s HFs or, as we have also borrowed from the Greek, ergonomics! Most likely one cave dweller preferred one rock over another. Of course, the one that preferred the apple as a communication tool was way ahead of their time! Subdisciplines of human factors There are subdivisions within HFs worthy of note as useful to medicine. These were hinted at in my last blog. These are human computer interation (HCI) and human machine interaction (HMI). Each group has its specialists. Often you don’t need a HFs generalist, you want an expert fully trained in one of these areas. An example of the difference in these subdisciplines can be illustrated in a crash involving a plane and a tug (thing that drags a plane around an airport). An HCI person looked at the screen bolted to the tug where information to the driver was displayed. Incidentally, HCI people are sometimes called UX (User Experience) designers. The theory was that the tug driver was distracted by the screen. It was fine. The HMI specialist said it must be the whole machine – the controls, the visibility from the driver’s seat – but all was fine. The HF person asked the tug driver, after doing the first two lots of tests again (HF people do things twice), when did you last see a medical professional? The answer was the day before; that he had ”some jabs ready for his holiday”. The HF person was shown the leaflet given to the driver after the jabs, telling him that he might feel dizzy or tired and not to operate heavy machines. The driver did not think an aircraft under tow was a heavy machine. HFs is, therefore, the study of the man, and the system, and the built environment which she is working. To relate this to the above about western psychology, HCI is often based on Soviet psychological testing. Rapid onset of computer and screen technology meant everyone was a naïve peasant again, with no clue how to operate the machine, or to get the Bluetooth to connect in the car! The answer of course is to use both traditions. The senses Let’s make a start about thinking about HFs. The history is important as it frames the study. Let’s think about the senses. Seeing hearing, feeling, tasting and smelling. If we start with the basics, then perhaps we can think a little about all those higher cognitive levels that the medical profession thinks HF is. Perhaps a bit on fatigue and attention as well. The senses tell us: What is out in the environment. How much is out there. Is there more or less of it than before. Where is it. Is it changing in time or place. Seeing We have evolved to operate in daylight, not at night; unlike almost all other animals we have detailed colour vision. But there is no zoom lens – we need to get closer to see the detail. Our vision is perhaps optimised to find ripe fruit in trees. Our field of view is extremely limited – or more precisely our ‘useful field of view’ is limited and in general we can only ‘see’ things we are directly looking at. Although our vison is very limited, it’s further reduced as the signal from each eye is split and sent off down different channels into the mind where it arrives as a blurred upside-down image, via the retina, and the brain has to interpret what’s going on. Vison is more about conception than perception. That’s to say the mind controls what we see to such an extent – and this control is based on experience and expectation – that vision is limited. The fact that there is something in the world that can be seen and could be identified is only a tiny bit of the picture (pun intended). The scary fact is that 95% of the information we use about the world is visual, yet we don’t have good vision. Well fruit picking is fine, but dealing with neurological conditions – no. A lot of medical packaging and its very poor labelling can’t be seen, let alone comprehended. Even in the test lab – let alone in the theatre with its weird lighting. Hearing The story gets worse – the good news is we don’t rely on hearing as much as vision. Humans find it difficult to discriminate sounds of voices from other voices and with noise in the background. Sound waves work in weird ways and you can have a negative (inverse) sound wave that cancels out the one you are trying to detect. Think noise cancelling headphones here! Taste, smell and touch These are minor senses when it comes to the overall picture of the world we need to form in our minds. Remember we are talking medicine rather than restaurant critique. They are useful. Warnings that use vibration (e.g. stick shake in a cockpit) work better than other audible warnings. I might do something on the psychology of warnings in a later blog. Investigators spend the majority of time trying to understand if the senses of the 'cave dweller' could have correctly detected and understood what was in the environment. Typically, the answer is no – that’s why it occurred. People rarely set out to have an accident, injure themselves or injure others for no apparent reason. Before the investigation team considers if higher cognitive factors like reasoning are to be thought about, you need to be sure the senses detected and correctly identified what was happening. Attention Psychologists since Greek times recognised the two types of attention mechanisms. One selective, the other sustained. Attention is the mechanism us cave dwellers use to filter out the overwhelming volume of information so we can attend to a bit of it over all the rest. The cat is reading this and also attending to the squirrel outside. If we were cats, I would not have had a job. Selective: Selective attention is where you rapidly need to selectively attend to one stimulus in the environment above all others. This is usually a product of visual search where we are looking for the thing to attend to – this can cause us to experience spatial uncertainly. The idea is that the ‘target’ will appear somewhere at some expected point (this relates to how our brain interpret things and based on expectations). Sustained: As the name suggests, this kind of attention investigates how long an operator can detect an event that is expected. Most of the research was conducted in the 1950s and investigated how reliably an American radar operator can watch the screen to detect a Russian aircraft. What we know about vigilance and monitoring tasks is that humans are very poor at it – we miss things very easily. Fatigue At the very first medical conference I went to, the A&E (ED) doctor who runs classes on HFs said he made errors due to not checking politely with his colleagues about his actions and then he spent 20 minutes talking about how pilots communicate. He then described his typical 18-hour day. At the question sessions, I asked if all his failures were not perhaps due to fatigue – and his answer was no. My second question was how often a pilot would do a shift of 18 hours and would you get on his plane if he said – “well I’m almost at 18 hours, I’ll give the landing a go”. Fatigue is time over 8 hours depending on the task. Times start from the moment you start for work – so a surgeon who drives 2.5 hours, does operations for 15, and then drives home for 3 hours has a long day. Fatigue is the hidden killer in medicine. Scheduling 12-hour days – well it keeps investigators in work. Fatigue is reduced by sleep and rest. Top tip – look at the quality of the sleep. “I’ve a young family”, “I was stationed at the end of the runway” is a good clue. Also look if the shift is ‘forward rolling’ or not. Fatigue is a very specialist area. I ask for help after the basics. Medicine is complex, tiring, difficult, challenging and us HF sleep specialists are few and far between and, in general, there has not been much done about understanding fatigue in the area of medicine (sorry). If you are an expert in this area – please, please, forgive the oversimplification. Summary HFs in the first sense is a study of basic processes. Investigations are always about these basic processes – seldom about how someone felt about someone else and about how these senses interacted with the environment, the equipment and the system or method of working. The downside of HF methods – more later in the 'how to do science' blog – is that many say it is eye wateringly expensive. Well, given the potential cost saving, it’s a bargain and research throughout Europe shows that it’s the most effective cost-saving intervention you can do. Research is done in situ and this takes time. The science types get involved to understand the human, the way of working, the equipment and the environment. Thinking of my recent projects concerning firearms deployment – well first get body armour, then training (pick up weapon – ask which end goes bang), then highly supervised patrols … then data collection – assuming your security clearances are all up to date. In respect of medicine, infection control training, theatre training, basic methods training in orthopaedics, come look how the saw has gone through the bone Martin… data collection. In heavy rail – well a lot more – apparently, I’m a great driver – stopping is my only problem! The point is to avoid anyone who says they can do it without the knowledge of the environment or say they developed this measurement tool in nuclear plant operations, and it will work here. The basic human processes described above are the same – but the environment is damned important. This is why a medically trained person is vital to keep the HFs person on a tight bit of rope. HFs is about understanding the limits of the cave dweller who dresses in scrubs and says trust me I’m an DPhil rather than trust me I’m an MD. Next time some slightly higher cognitive processes – memory, search, reasoning, biases heuristics. Thinking and deciding. The good news is that you will have concluded humans should not practice medicine – so how well humans’ reason or don’t will be of no surprise. Happy new year to our reader. Read Martin's other blogs Why investigate? Part 1 Why investigate? Part 2: Where do facts come from (mummy)? Who should investigate? Part 3 When to investigate? Part 5 How or why. Part 6
  6. Content Article
    About the author Jo Mildenhall is a Doctoral Research Student at Manchester Metropolitan University; and Paramedic Team Leader, South Central Ambulance Service NHS Trust, Newbury Ambulance Station.
  7. News Article
    NHS leaders have urged Boris Johnson’s government to build 100 new hospitals and give the service an extra £7bn a year for new facilities and equipment. They want the Prime Minister to commit to far more than the 40 new hospitals over the next decade that the Conservatives pledged during the general election. So many hospitals, clinics and mental health units are dilapidated after years of underinvestment in the NHS’s capital budget that a spending splurge on new buildings is needed, bosses say. Too many facilities are cramped and growing numbers are unsafe for patients and staff, they claim. Johnson has promised £2.7bn to rebuild six existing hospitals and pledged to build 40 in total and upgrade 20 others, although has been criticised for a lack of detail on the latter two pledges. The call has come from NHS Providers, which represents the bosses of the 240 NHS trusts in England that provide acute, mental health, ambulance and community-based services. Read full story Source: The Guardian, 3 February 2020
  8. Content Article
    This paper from the British Medical Journal, describes specific examples of HFE-based interventions for patient safety. Studies show that HFE can be used in a variety of domains.
  9. News Article
    When Kea Turner’s 74-year-old grandmother checked into Virginia’s Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital in the US, with advanced lung cancer, she landed in the oncology unit where every patient was monitored by a bed alarm. “Even if she would slightly roll over, it would go off,” Turner said. Small movements — such as reaching for a tissue — would set off the alarm, as well. The beeping would go on for up to 10 minutes, Turner said, until a nurse arrived to shut it off. Tens of thousands of alarms shriek, beep and buzz every day in every US hospital. All sound urgent, but few require immediate attention or get it. Intended to keep patients safe by alerting nurses to potential problems, they also create a riot of disturbances for patients trying to heal and get some rest. Alarms have ranked as one of the top 10 health technological hazards every year since 2007, according to the research firm ECRI Institute. That could mean staffs were too swamped with alarms to notice a patient in distress, or that the alarms were misconfigured. The Joint Commission, which accredits hospitals, warned the nation about the “frequent and persistent” problem of alarm safety in 2013. It now requires hospitals to create formal processes to tackle alarm system safety, but there is no national data on whether progress has been made in reducing the prevalence of false and unnecessary alarms. The commission has estimated that of the thousands of alarms going off throughout a hospital every day, an estimated 85-99% do not require clinical intervention. Staff, facing widespread “alarm fatigue,” can miss critical alerts, leading to patient deaths. Patients may get anxious about fluctuations in heart rate or blood pressure that are perfectly normal, the commission said. Read full story Source: The Washington Post, 24 November 2019
  10. Content Article
    Reminder: Advise patients not to: smoke; use naked flames (or be near people who are smoking or using naked flames); or go near anything that may cause a fire while emollients are in contact with their medical dressings or clothing. Change patient clothing and bedding regularly—preferably daily—because emollients soak into fabric and can become a fire hazard. Incidents should be reported.
  11. Content Article
    What will I learn? Basic personal alarms for the elderly. Alarms that send a signal for assistance. Personal alarms and telecare. Fall detectors and alarms. How much does a personal alarm cost? Lifeline alarm services. Choosing and buying a personal alarm.
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