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Education can falter for off-peak staff
One potential cause of danger in off-peak hours is that those staff may not receive the same level of education on important issues from the employer, says Ruth Ragusa, RN, vice president of organizational effectiveness at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, NY. As with most everything else in the hospital, staff education focuses mostly on the peak hours, and the off-peak staff often must go out of their way to participate, meaning they sometimes slip through the cracks.
Although there may be many reasons that off-peak hours are more dangerous, none of those situations can be tolerated, Ragusa says. Solutions must be found, so the quality of care is consistent no matter what day of the week.
Risk can't be tolerated
"We can't tolerate greater risk at night. We have to make a commitment to say that is not acceptable," she says. "If your family member is here at 8 p.m., you don't want them to be at greater risk because they didn't come at 8 a.m. Even if there are challenges for us as caregivers in the off-peak hours, we have to find a way to overcome them."
Ragusa's organization has made it a priority to ensure that off-peak staff have access to the same inservices and other educational opportunities as peak period staff. South Nassau also has encouraged off-peak staff to contact superiors any time.
"It is essential to have a policy that makes the staff feel empowered to escalate anything they feel uncomfortable with," she says. "We have an escalation policy that says if you're not comfortable with the answer, if you have concerns, you keep going up the ladder until you feel your concerns have been addressed. That might mean calling your supervisor or calling the chairman of the department."
For more information on off-peak hours patient safety, contact:
Ruth Ragusa, RN, Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness, South Nassau Communities Hospital, Oceanside, NY. Telephone: (516) 632-4064. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.