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New study: Mistakes by health care professionals lead to deaths of tens of thousands of people every year

  • A copy of the complete “Silence Kills” study is available from the Rx For Better Care Web site

(3/3/2023) - A study released in January by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) reports that a “prevalent culture of poor communication and collaboration” among health professionals relates significantly to continued medical errors and staff turnover. Additionally, a lack of adequate support systems, skills and personal accountability results in communication gaps that can cause harm to patients.

According to press statement form the AACN, the study of more than 1,700 nurses, physicians, clinical-care staff and administrators found that fewer than 10 percent address behavior by colleagues that routinely includes trouble following directions, poor clinical judgment or taking dangerous shortcuts. In all, the study pinpoints seven categories of problems that are frequently encountered, yet rarely addressed. The study was co-sponsored by the AACN and VitalSmarts, a company specializing in leadership training and organizational performance.

“This research validates what our 100,000 constituents have communicated to us as the number one barrier hindering optimal care for patients,” said Kathy McCauley, RN, PhD, BC, FAAN, FAHA, president, AACN. “Too often, improving workplace communication is seen as a ‘soft’ issue - the truth is we must build environments that support and demand greater candor among staff if we are to make a demonstrable impact on patient safety.”

According to the press statement, AACN and VitalSmarts combined their resources to better understand communication problems in hospitals through the survey Silence Kills: The Seven Crucial Conversations for Healthcare. Among the study’s key findings:

• 84 percent of physicians and 62 percent of nurses and other clinical-care providers have seen coworkers taking shortcuts that could be dangerous to patients.

• 88 percent of physicians and 48 percent of nurses and other providers work with people who show poor clinical judgment.

• Fewer than 10 percent of physicians, nurses and other clinical staff directly confront their colleagues about their concerns, and one in five physicians said they have seen harm come to patients as a result.

• The 10 percent of healthcare workers who raise these crucial concerns observe better patient outcomes, work harder, are more satisfied and are more committed to staying in their jobs.


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