Hospital Takes Steps To Make Surgery Safer

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A recent Consumer Reports study sheds light on how safe surgery is at local hospitals.

The report rated more than 2400 facilities, looking at 27 different types of surgeries and how many Medicare patients died or stayed longer than expected following their procedure.

Of 33 Kansas facilities in the rankings, Topeka’s Stormont-Vail HealthCare was among 11 hospitals receiving the top two ratings.

Stormont surgical nurse Ashley Berroth, RN, says safety at their facility begins the moment the patient walks in the door.

She says Stormont is among facilities using the National Time Out Policy adapted from the World Health Organization. It's a checklist in three phases, covering a patient's time in checkin and prep, the time in the operating room and through recovery and post-op. Berroth says a primary focus is patient identity, including name, date of birth and the procedure being performed, to ensure everyone involved in the process is on the same page.

Verification from the patient by each team member is an important part of the process. Fellow nurse Nancy Vaughn, RN, says patients may get a little tired of being asked to repeat the same information because they are asked the questions multiple times at different stages of the process.

The point is to assume nothing, and that includes a step where the surgical site is physically marked. For example, Vaughn says, if it is a procedure on the left knee, the patient will be asked to verify the site then the surgeon will visit the prep area and mark the site on the patient. Once the patient is sterilized and prepped in the operating room, the marked site remains visible so everyone is certain it is the correct area.

Before the first incision there's a final timeout. Berroth says all the staff will stop what they are doing and listen to the circulating nurse give an explanation of the procedure about to be performed.

Another precaution involves counting all the instruments, sponges and other items before and after the procedure. Vaughn says all counts must agree from beginning to end to ensure nothing is left inside the patient.

A patient can expect to encounter a dozen people through their stay. A common thread in making their skills click is communication. Vaughn says surgeries cannot be successful without good communication, so it is a top priority.

Among other area hospitals, Topeka's St. Francis, Manhattan's Mercy Regional, Lawrence Memorial and University of Kansas Hospital received average ratings from Consumer Reports. Newman Regional Health in Emporia received the lowest rating.


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