From the desk of Adrianne E. Avillion, DEd, RN

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, March 16, 2012

Editor's note: This feature is written by nursing professional development expert Adrianne E. Avillion, DEd, RN. Each week, Adrianne writes about an important issue in the area of professional development or answers reader questions. If you have a question for Adrianne, e-mail her at

Nursing professional development's role in reducing the incidence of adverse occurrences

Falls and medication errors are a common source of concern and dismay among all healthcare professionals. Nursing professional development (NPD) specialists are often called upon to create education strategies to help reduce the incidence of commonly occurring adverse events such as falls and medication errors.  How can we creatively offer education that helps to decrease the incidence of adverse events?

First of all we need to avoid the typical approach, such as reviewing the eight rights of medication administration or listing safety measures such as making sure the call light is within reach of patients to avoid falls. These things are not bad, but nurses will either be bored or insulted by such commonplace approaches.

We need to think creatively. How about visual illustrations? Draw a picture of a patient area with about 10 to 15 safety violations and post it wherever learners are most likely to see it (e.g., bulletin boards, computer screens, hospital newsletter) Offer a prize (e.g., free lunch or dinner in the cafeteria) for the first 10 nurses, or others as appropriate, who correctly identify the violations. Making a contest with a reward attached generates discussion and stimulates interest.

Similarly, write a scenario involving a medication error. Ask nurses to respond by identifying at what point(s) the error could have been prevented. Include a variety of points such as the order being transcribed incorrectly, mislabeling at the pharmacy, failure to check two patient identifiers, etc. Or ask the nursing staff to come up with a creative scenario about error prevention. Come up with guidelines and make it a contest with members of the education council or other groups acting as judges.

The preceding ideas incorporate fun, which is particularly important to generation Y nurses. However, errors are certainly serious. Is information about error rates and their impact shared with staff nurses? Do they know the scope of the problem within your organization? Do they know the impact? Sadly, many nurses are only given statistics such as the number of medication errors, but not the impact on length of stay, stress on staff, and/or monetary costs. How can we expect nurses to truly become involved in error prevention if they don't know what's going on? One of the best ways to reduce risk is to share with nurses the impact of adverse occurrences and how their actions either contribute to or negate patient outcomes.

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