From the staff development bookshelf: Addressing common barriers to incident reporting

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, April 27, 2012

One of the most common complaints organizations hear from their staff about the event reporting process is that it is difficult and tedious to complete (e.g., locating the hardcopy report form and taking the time to fill it out.)  Additionally, although staff members are encouraged to complete the form as soon as possible after the event has occurred, while the memory of all of the circumstances surrounding the event is fresh and can be clearly documented, sometimes it is just not possible for them to do so until after the shift is over. Before a formalized reporting process is put into place, it is always a good idea to solicit staff's input as to what are the common barriers to incident reporting. Leadership should be prepared to address the following:

  • Assuring staff that they will be provided feedback on any actions taken after an event has been reported
  • Assuring staff that the incident reporting process developed and implemented will be easy to access and use, as well as efficient and thereby, will minimize the time it takes to complete
  • Assuring staff that incident reporting is not punitive and is only a mechanism by which a deviation from the norm is being communicated to the appropriate individuals
  • Including common taxonomy that clearly defines what should be reported
  • Educating physicians and other healthcare providers regarding the purpose of an incident reporting system so that there is a clear understanding of how reporting events can help improve patient safety at all levels of care
  • Assuring staff that reports can be submitted anonymously if  preferred
  • Educating about both actual and potential harm, so that it is understood that evaluation of process is just as important as investigation of an event
  • Educating staff about how reporting and investigating an incident assists risk management with management of the defense strategy of the claim, should a lawsuit be filed
  • Assuring staff of the ease by which as event can be reported, including minimal time required to complete-patient care is top priority

Book excerpt adapted from
Creating a Just Culture: A Nurse Leader's Guide by Vivian B. Miller, BA, CPHQ, LHRM, CPHRM, FASHRM and Terry L. Jones, RN, PhD.

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