Healthcare News & Insights

Is hassle of paperwork hurting your safety program?

Bad news for doctors and patients: A recent study of just-out-of-school doctors shows some disturbing patterns in their willingness to follow basic procedures.

More than half of new surgeons have gotten stuck with needles or similar “piercing” injuries, but only about half of them bother to report the injury, according to recent research by Johns Hopkins University. The researchers surveyed recent medical school graduates from 17 different medical schools. The study was published in Academic Medicine.

You’d think they’d know better by the time they graduate. Needle-stuck docs are at risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis and similar diseases, and if they’re already infected and their blood spills on a patient, the patient is at increased risk, too.

But the researchers found that the student doctors didn’t report injuries as required because of the time and paperwork it entailed.

A management crisis

The trend is disturbing on two levels: First, it sets the stage for bad habits in their professional careers.

But the larger issue — well-trained employees who disregard important rules — applies to workers at all levels in a health care organization.

Everyone is trying to get more done with less. The inevitable result is corner-cutting that seems minor to the person engaging in it (“I know I’m not infected, I’m not going to bother reporting this.”) can snowball into a systemic issue.

The importance of not only safety, but reporting safety lapses, may start when health care providers are in school. But it’s a process that has to continue with follow-up training by their employers.

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