Safety of Culture

Edition: June 2012 - Vol 20 Number 06
Article#: 4003
Author: Repertoire

Of the unsung heroes in the long-term care industry, nurses should not be discounted. Long hours and low pay are not enough to deter the majority of them from providing optimal care to their patients. Still, it takes more than determination and dedication to ensure this group is equipped and educated to perform well. One example is a certification program developed by the American Association for Long Term Care Nursing (AALTCN) designed to help nurses perform their work safely.

AALTCN – reportedly the nation’s largest network of caregivers – works to unite all levels of nursing staff to advance in excellence in the field. In addition to providing relevant education and advocating for nursing staff, AALTCN aims to create community by promoting teamwork and achieving common goals – as well as advocating for an improved status and voice – among long-term-care nursing administrators, LPNs, RNs, staff development directors, nursing assistants, assessment coordinators and nurse practitioners.

Through its Long Term Care Safety Specialist Certification Program ™, the organization also addresses safety issues that concern nurses and their patients, such as lifting and moving patients, safe medication use, prevention of pressure ulcers, management of abnormal behaviors, alternatives to restraints, violence and other risks. Indeed, due to their age and multiple medical conditions, long-term-care residents tend to be at significant risk for complications that can result in added costs and litigation, according to the AALTCN. Avoidable hospitalizations of nursing home residents cost nearly $5 billion annually.

At the same time, long-term-care nurses miss approximately 30 percent more days than other professionals due to back pain from moving and lifting patients, notes the AALTCN. In fact, AALTCN cites back pain as the reason why 12 percent of nurses leave the profession. For these reasons, a proactive approach is needed to create a culture of safety.

Safety certification

The Long Term Care Safety Specialist Certification Program provides long-term-care nurses and/or nursing administrators with tools to develop and sustain a culture of safety by preparing them to do the following:

• Identify the scope and profile of incidents and accidents.

• Describe safe patient handling principles.

• Describe principles of ergonomics.

• Identify technologies to reduce risks.

• Identify unique clinical and environmental risks in the long-term-care setting.

• Outline steps for implementing a culture of safety program.

• Utilize teaching strategies designed to enhance a nursing home’s safe practices.

A series of workshops and webinars prepares participants to take the Long Term Care Safety Specialist Certification examination and receive CE credit. In the end, creating a culture of safety in nursing homes and long-term-care facilities should help ensure fewer injuries to residents as well as the caregivers lifting and moving them. The result should be more optimal work conditions for nursing staff, leading to reduced workers’ compensation costs, fewer missed workdays and sick leave, reduced overtime and overall higher staff morale, notes the AALTCN.

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