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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Can You Speak Up?

Published October 18, 2012 9:15 AM by Pam Tarapchak
It's always nice to know someone has your back - especially when it's your boss. However, a new study reveals a nurse manager's support is even more crucial than previously noted. A strong, collaborative relationship with your manager equals greater safety in the workplace for both patients and healthcare professionals.

In a study of 54 nursing teams in Belgium, researchers found nurses were more willing to admit mistakes or potential mistakes if their nurse managers supported this type of open communication. Even more important is nurse managers' willingness to model a culture of safety.

Researchers examined the notion care providers may experience a conflict between the strong enforcement of safety procedures on the one hand, and the reporting of safety/patient errors on the other.

"Despite this conflict, prior research indicates that a climate of safety requires both prioritizing existing safety protocols and constructive responses to errors," said the research team leader, Hannes Leroy of Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and the University of Calgary. "Achieving this balance highlights the importance of leadership to foster [the] team priority of safety."

According to Leroy, the researchers' findings suggest that by staying true to the safety values they espouse, leaders can start to solve the managerial dilemma of providing clear safety directives while encouraging employees to report errors.

"This is important as the results of our study indicate that the combination of both a high priority of safety and a psychologically safe working environment predicts the number of reported patient errors in hospitals," Leroy said.

It seems this may be a fine line for nurse managers walk - enforcing safety as well as developing a culture transparent to errors. However, according to this study, supporting staff and opening the door to communication about errors will lead to an even stronger culture of safety -  and in the end fewer mistakes to report.  

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