Even after a patient has received treatment, their condition may continue to be serious and possibly even life-threatening. The people who need close care and attention are the patients who will often be placed in a hospital’s intensive care unit. Every year, intensive care units in the United States will treat over four million people.
Intensive care units are staffed by medical professionals who are specially trained to understand how to handle serious situations. People placed in intensive care units include those who have just had surgery, suffered heart attacks, or car accident victims. Patients may need to be on IVs, need breathing assistance, or require catheters.
While in the intensive care unit, medical professionals monitor patients to ensure that the main body systems of patients are functioning normally and that they are not suffering from adverse effects from their injury or illness. Medications are closely monitored to ensure that patients are reacting to drugs well.
Oftentimes the death rate in the intensive care unit can be higher than other units in hospitals. This does not necessarily mean that the medical staff on this unit have been negligent or that they are unqualified. Rather this is due to the very nature of the patients they treat since the patients are critically ill and the rate of patients not being able to recover is higher.
Intensive Care Unit Errors
Every year as many as 40,500 deaths result from diagnosis mistakes made in hospital intensive care units. Studies have shown that errors in intensive care units occur at a rate of 81 every 1,000 days. Nearly half of these errors were considered to be preventable. Of all these errors, the most common types were caused by the failure of medical professionals to follow protocol, lapses in communications, errors with medications, and errors with treatment.
The intensive care unit also has many complex medical devices and machines. If any of these machines has a defect or if the physician does not use the device correctly, the patient may be the one to suffer.
There are certain steps medical professionals should follow to uphold the safety of patients. These steps include:
- Clear communication between team members and working well together.
- The intensive care unit staff should be well-trained, directed, and managed, as well as understanding the unit and how to best care for the patients.
- Ensuring that the staff is well-rested and cut down on stress and distraction.
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