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Study finds failure to include nurses in process of admitting errors to patients, families


For immediate release
Date:    January 7, 2009

Even though nurses routinely disclose nursing errors to their patients, a new study published in the January 2009 issue of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety shows that nurses often are not included when physicians tell patients about more serious mistakes.

The study's authors conclude that because nurses play such a hands-on role at the bedside of their patients, the absence of nurses from both planning and actual disclosures can diminish the quality of the disclosure experienced by the patient or their family. For example, when nurses are not involved in the planning for disclosure, they may seem evasive in answering patients' questions or stall by encouraging families to write down their questions or set up a meeting with doctors. The study, "Disclosing Errors to Patients: Perspectives of Registered Nurses," systematically explores nurses' attitudes and experiences related to error disclosure.

"Improving the quality of error disclosure to patients is a top priority in health care," says Sarah E. Shannon, vice associate dean for academic services at the University of Washington School of Nursing, UW associate professor of behavioral nursing and health systems, and lead author of the study.

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The University of Washington School of Nursing is consistently the nation’s No. 1-ranked nursing school, according to U.S. News & World Report. Ranked No. 3 in research funding from the National Institutes of Health, the UW School of Nursing is a national and international leader in improving the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities. The school addresses society’s most pressing challenges in health care through innovative teaching, award winning research and community service.