Improving patient safety in Neonatal Units

Author(s): Seval Akgun

Primum non nocere is a Latin phrase that means “first, to do no harm.“ As an important step in becoming a doctor, medical students must take the Hippocratic Oath. And one of the promises within that oath is “first, do no harm” (or “primum non nocere,”). However we sometimes do harm to our patients. Safety should be the basic principle and a major preoccupation in health care systems and the goal of improving quality of care and safety should involve changing the ways health-care providers and systems function in order to achieve better patient outcomes. Due to the complexity and characteristics of their patients, neonatal units are risk areas for the development of adverse events (AE). However, although patient safety in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) environment is an under- researched area, but recently seems to get high priority on the healthcare quality agenda worldwide. For this reason, there is a need to introduce and implement some strategies that will help to improve the safety of the neonatal patient. Institute of Medicine (IOM) defined safety as “freedom from accidental injury”. Today, patient safety has become a discipline with its own theoretical basis and safety science methods designed to measure adverse events and make sustainable improvements to safety. It is not what most of us were thinking about 10 years ago indeed and it is not what ‘we have always done’. It is the most significant change in the healthcare system in over a century. It is a new applied science and It has forever changed the face of modern healthcare. Maybe, several milestones were achieved in this field so far, however still implementing a patient safety program is a difficult task especially among high risk areas such as neonatal units, and the healthcare provider must have a simple approach for implementation in order to obtain the desired outcome. The model of patient safety implementation succeed to reduce adverse event in Neonatal units, joining all patient safety activities under one umbrella, improving the culture of safety and having a patient centered care along with increase awareness on patient safety issues are the corner stone of this successful approach.