Those who’ve undergone a surgical procedure in a hospital or medical facility may wonder why they’re repeatedly asked the same questions, but it’s all for a good reason.
Today, Wednesday, June 12, is recognized as National Time Out Day, a day to raise awareness about a tool that supports nurses’ ability to speak up for safe practices in the operating room.
The surgical services staff at Penn Highlands Huntingdon, formerly J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital, is recognizing the day and the importance of time out procedures, which are standard as part of the Joint Commission.
Part of those safe practices include asking a patient questions, more than once, before any procedure, to verify information is accurate and clear before any operation takes place.
Some of those questions include the patient’s name, date of birth and the procedure that’s being performed. Other items include identifying items available for procedure, using a list to verify items needed, and any reports needed.
Diana Lidwell-Megon, nurse manager at Penn Highlands Huntingdon, said that whenever possible, patients are involved in these time out processes, and it encourages the entire surgical staff to work together.
“This promotes a culture of safety,” she said. “This is a place where everybody can speak up.”
One of the reasons time outs before operations are vital is to prevent wrong-site surgeries, and according to information from the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN), about 40-50 wrong-site surgeries are performed in the United States each week.
Since Lidwell-Megon been working at the hospital, because of these steps to ensure patient safety, no wrong-site surgeries have been performed.
“In the five years I’ve been here, we have not had one wrong-site surgery,” she said.
Younger nurses, like Lindsey Reed, RN, said these protocols are ingrained with nurses, and it’s part of their education and training.
“We’re advocates for patients in one of their most vulnerable states,” said Reed. “We do it before every evasive procedure on arrival and in the operating room.”
Michelle Harker, RN, said time outs weren’t always protocol when she started her career, showing that for older nurses, it was a matter of being trained and having that become a part of their routine.
“We would look at a patient’s tag, and we would look over paperwork, but we wouldn’t stop and do it where everyone in the room had to be in agreement,” she said.
Raylene Rader, RN, said she’s been there where a time out has taken place, and realized a mistake occurred before a procedure took place, showing the value of the campaign.
“With things like allergies and medications that people take, we do everything we can to make sure it’s correct, but sometimes, we make a mistake,” said Reed.
Dr. Atir Farig, an anesthesiologist, said this allows everyone, not just one person, to accept responsibility for a patient.
“One person can make a mistake, so we need to have more then one person who is verifying and part of the process,” he said. “Wrong-site surgeries are one of the most common mistakes, so this is why time outs are so important.”