13. Empower Nurses and Other Clinicians
Nursing staff should have the power to halt unsafe practices. To Tahl Humes, MD, hospitalist at Exempla St. Joseph’s Hospital in Denver, halting unsafe practices depends, once again, on good lines of communication, and recognizing that patient care is a joint responsibility. For example, she says, “instead of just going to see the patient, writing the note, writing the order, and putting the chart away,” the hospitalists “talk with nurses daily and tell them what they’re planning to do,” so there is more opportunity to catch what might be unsafe practices.
14. Reduce Wound Infections
Although reducing wound infections is something in which their surgical colleagues take the lead, says Dr. Manning, “in our perioperative consultation care, we often work with surgery and anesthesiology in the pre-op evaluations of the patients. So in the surgical care improvement projects, we are often partners.”
Hospitalists are also frequently members on quality committees that help to brainstorm solutions to serious problems. One such project is the Surgical Care Improvement Program (SCIP), spearheaded by David Hunt, MD, with the Office of Clinical Standards and Quality, CMS. SCIP is an effort to transform the prevention of postoperative complications. Its goal is to reduce surgical complications by 25% in the United States by the year 2010 in four target areas: surgical site infections, and cardiac, respiratory, and venous thromboembolic complications. (See Figures 1 and 2, p. 33.)
This includes those patients who are already on beta-blockers. “From the hospitalist’s standpoint,” says Dr. Manning, “we have a real role in … [ensuring] that their beta blockade is maintained.”
Dr. Humes says that at her institution, a wound care nurse can have that responsibility. If a provider is concerned about any patient in this regard, he or she can order that the patient be seen by a wound care nurse and, depending on what’s needed, by a physical therapist.
Now we move on to address those issues that are medication-related:
15. Know Risky Meds
Pediatric hospitalists are involved with postoperative patients at Dr. Rauch’s institution. All patients’ orders are double-checked, he says, and computer order entry also helps providers calculate pediatric dosage norms or dosages calculated by weight.
The hospitalist has the opportunity to be involved in the pharmacy’s selection of drugs for the formulary, says Erin Stucky, MD, pediatric hospitalist at University of California, San Diego, and to help decide the drug choices within a certain class and limit the numbers of things that are used most frequently that are visually different in appearance. “And although that’s the pharmacist’s purview,” she says, “the hospitalist has a vested interest in being on the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee to review and restate to pharmacists what they’re using based on clinical need and to find a way for that drug to be safely stored in pharmacy if, indeed, there are a couple of drugs from one class that are truly useful.”
A drug’s generic name, brand name, dose strength, frequency of administration, place of use, indications, and contraindications are all important factors to determine the potential risks of drugs. But “you can’t say a list of risky medications at one institution is the same as it should be elsewhere,” says Dr. Stucky. Risky medications will depend on the setting in which the physician works. Hospitalists need to think logically about the drugs that are the most used or are new, including any new drug that has a different method by which it is administered or a different interaction capability with standard drugs.