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New York nurses' concerns about surgical safety

Two thousand nurses were surveyed to uncover the biggest concerns about job and patient safety, particularly in operating rooms. The survey was conducted in New York and across the country by Medline Industries Inc., the largest, privately-owned national distributor of over 350,000 medical products. Suppliers, manufacturers and health care professionals have good reasons to be worried about safety, in part to avoid medical malpractice liability.

Nurses pointed to three top events that compromised safety, all creating preventable patient injuries. At 65 percent, wrong-site surgery was the leading concern followed closely, at 63 and 60 percent respectively, by surgical site infections and retained surgical objects - objects left inside patients. More than one in four nurses surveyed also listed surgical pressure ulcers among priority safety issues.

The operating room nurses' unease about wrong-site surgeries are justified by research. The Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare reported that up to 40 wrong-site surgeries occurred weekly nationwide. The estimate includes wrong body locations, as well as wrong patient and wrong procedure mistakes.

The commission director stated the adverse surgical incidents were "massively underreported." A considerable number of wrong-site surgeries are the result of miscommunication and simple errors, starting as soon as the time a doctor orders surgery. Mistakes include scheduling errors and misinterpretation of surgeons' words indicating an operating point, like left or right leg.

Surgical site infections are responsible for nearly one-third or up to 750,000 of all hospital patient infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Avoidable infections account for a 40 percent rise in re-admissions. Risk reduction recommendations include timely administration of antibiotics and maintenance of normal patient temperatures.

Broome County patients don't expect to be harmed while being healed. Victims of wrong-site surgeries and other adverse events may file legal claims against medical providers for negligence. Compensation can cover costs associated with pain and suffering, unnecessary medical bills and wage losses.

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