Monday, 29 August 2011

Do not disturb

I have just been listening to Stephen Nolan's "fierce and feisty topical phone-in debate" on Radio 5 Live. The topic was how some nurses were wearing red tabards bearing the words "Drug round in progress. Please do not disturb", and the debate was fierce and feisty. On the one hand we had commentators telling us about the importance of getting the medications right. Consequences of error could be highly significant. On the other hand, and Stephen himself was in this camp, patients were being told not to speak with nurses and this may be really significant in their care.

There are those who deny the benefits of medical intervention, including the use of drugs, but let's put those arguments to one side and say that getting the right medicine is really important. Nurses have to concentrate and should be allowed to do so. On the other hand the interruptions may be seen as a waste of the nurses time. Whether it really is a waste of time could be debated fiercely. It may be that chit-chat should be avoided but one person's banter is another person's absolute need for reassurance.

I am biased. I know of the importance of not disturbing a nurse giving out medications. However I was visiting a friend in hospital when she wanted to go to the toilet. She said she needed to go fairly urgently and the only nurse on the ward was giving out medication. The nurse asked me to find another nurse. I searched the whole ward and had to go back to her. She told me where the staff room was and I eventually found another nurse who was on a break.

The answer is really simple. If we don't want medication errors then we make sure that staffing levels are appropriate.

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