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Washington, DC: VA Office of the Inspector General;  February 17, 2022. Report No. 21-01506-76.

Patient suicide is a reoccurring sentinel event that is a challenge for the veteran’s health care community. This report shares the results of 36 unplanned inspections at United States Veterans Affairs facilities. While the inspections found general guidance compliance to be in place, weaknesses in required patient follow-up, staff training and outreach activities were flagged as areas in need of targeted improvement to enhance patient safety.
Zheng MY, Lui H, Patino G, et al. J Patient Saf. 2022;18:e401-e406.
California law requires adverse events that led to serious injury or death because of hospital noncompliance to be reported to the state licensing agency. These events are referred to as “immediate jeopardy.” Using publicly available data, this study analyzed all immediate jeopardy cases between 2007 and 2017. Of the 385 immediate jeopardy cases, 36.6% led to patient death, and the most common category was surgical.
Shah F, Falconer EA, Cimiotti JP. Qual Manag Health Care. 2022;Epub Feb 15.
Root cause analysis (RCA) is a tool commonly used by organizations to analyze safety errors. This systematic review explored whether interventions implemented based on RCA recommendations were effective at preventing similar adverse events in Veterans Health Affairs (VA) settings. Of the ten retrospective studies included in the review, all reported improvements following RCA-recommended interventions implementation, but the studies used different methodologies to assess effectiveness. The authors suggest that future research emphasize quantitative patient-related outcome measures to demonstrate the impact and value of RCAs.
Amit Aharon A, Fariba M, Shoshana F, et al. J Clin Nurs. 2021;30:3290-3300.
Patient suicide attempts or completions can have negative psychological impacts on the nurses involved. This mixed-methods study found a significant association between emotional distress and feeling alone with absenteeism and higher staff turnover. Healthcare organizations should develop support programs for second victims to increase resiliency and potentially decrease absenteeism and turnover.
Shao Q, Wang Y, Hou K, et al. J Adv Nurs. 2021;77:4005-4016.
Patient suicide in all settings is considered a never event. Nurses caring for the patient may experience negative psychological symptoms following inpatient suicide. This review identified five themes based on nurses’ psychological experiences: emotional experience, cognitive experience, coping strategies, self-reflection, and impact on self and practice. Hospital administrators should develop education and support programs to help nurses cope in the aftermath of inpatient suicide.  
Berg SH, Rørtveit K, Walby FA, et al. BMJ Open. 2020;10:e040088.
Patient safety is an emerging focus within the mental health field. This qualitative study highlights three themes of perceived safe clinical care for patients in a suicidal crisis – being recognized as suicidal, receiving personalized treatment, and adapting care to meet fluctuating behaviors.   
Donovan AL, Aaronson EL, Black L, et al. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2021;47:23-30.
Patient suicide, attempted suicide, or self-harm are considered ‘never events.’ This article describes the development and implementation of a safety protocol for emergency department (ED) patients at risk for self-harm, including the creation of safe bathrooms and increasing the number of trained observers in the ED. Implementation of the protocol was correlated with lower rates of self-harm.  

Washington, DC: Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General; September 3, 2020. Report No 19-09493-249.

Discontinuities in mental health care are a patient safety concern. This report analyzes how documentation gaps, medication reconciliation problems, and poor care coordination contributed to the suicide of a patient who presented at an emergency room, was screened there, and referred to a clinic for further care that was not completed.
Mills PD, Soncrant C, Gunnar W. BMJ Qual Saf. 2021;30:567-576.
This retrospective analysis used root cause analysis reports of suicide events in VA hospitals to characterize suicide attempts and deaths and provide prevention recommendations. Recommendations include avoidance of environmental hazards, medication monitoring, control of firearms, and close observation.
Wyder M, Ray MK, Roennfeldt H, et al. Int J Qual Health Care. 2020;32:285-291.
This systematic review examined common systems factors affecting suicide deaths in mental health care. Seven themes contributing to suicide deaths were identified: (1) inappropriate or incomplete risk assessment; (2) lack of family involvement; (3) inadequate transitions and communication between different care teams; (4) lack of adherence to policies and procedures; (5) treatment not in line with current guidelines; (6) access to means and observation and; (7) lack of specialist services within the community.
Gill S, Mills PD, Watts BV, et al. J Patient Saf. 2021;17:e898-e903.
This retrospective cohort study used root cause analysis (RCA) to examine safety reports from emergency departments at Veterans Health Administration hospitals over a two-year period. Of the 144 cases identified, the majority involved delays in care (26%), elopements (15%), suicide attempts and deaths (10%), inappropriate discharges (10%) and errors following procedures (10%). RCA revealed that primary contributory factors leading to adverse events were knowledge/educational deficits (11%) and policies/procedures that were either inadequate (11%) or lacking standardization (10%).
Frost DA, Snydeman CK, Lantieri MJ, et al. Psychosomatics. 2019;61:154-160.
This study assessed the effectiveness of a suicide prevention checklist in a single hospital developed based on Joint Commission recommendations. In the two years following checklist implementation, suicide attempts decreased by 42% (compared to the preceding two years); the number of patients sustaining temporary or minor injuries also decreased by 57% across the same time period. Survey responses showed that unit nurses felt the checklist list created a safe environment (88%) and that it supported consistent practice (90%) of caring for potentially suicidal patients in nonpsychiatric units.
Glauser G, Goodrich S, McClintock SD, et al. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2021;162:155-164.e2.
Surgical overlap is a longstanding practice, and reports suggest a link to postoperative complications and patient safety. This study measured the impact of overlap on patient outcomes among patients undergoing cardiac surgical interventions over a two-year period and found that overlap did not predict mortality, readmission, reoperation or emergency department visits at 30- or 90-days post-discharge, compared to patients without surgical overlap.
Oakbrook Terrace, IL: Joint Commission: October 2019.
Inpatient suicide is increasing as a safety concern. This case analysis offers two levels of examination of a hypothetical patient suicide: one that outlines points of failure in the patient’s care and the other that shares strategies to prevent the event from occurring. 

Washington, DC: Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General. August 22, 2019. Report No. 19-07429-195.

Hospitalized patient suicide is a sentinel event. This report describes an investigation into a patient suicide incident in the Veterans Affairs health system that found numerous conditions that contributed to the event, such as nonoperational security cameras, ineffective rounding policy, and lack of leadership knowledge of safety practices in mental health units. Recommendations for improvement include staff education, standardization of rounding, and robust oversight of frontline practice.
Williams SC, Schmaltz SP, Castro GM, et al. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2018;44:643-650.
The Joint Commission identifies inpatient suicide as a sentinel event. Little is known about the epidemiology of hospital suicides other than that they are rare and occur mostly in psychiatry wards. Researchers examined two national databases to develop the first data-driven appraisal of hospital suicide rates. Nationally, between 49 and 65 hospital suicides occur each year. Nearly 75% happen during psychiatric treatment, and the most common means of death is hanging. This hospital suicide rate is an order of magnitude lower than prior estimates. An accompanying editorial raises concerns about the much larger epidemic of suicide immediately after psychiatric hospital discharge. A prior WebM&M commentary highlighted additional strategies to reduce hospital suicide risk.
Oliva EM, Bowe T, Tavakoli S, et al. Psychol Serv. 2017;14:34-49.
Opioid-related harm is an urgent patient safety priority. Identifying patients at higher risk of harm is a critical aspect of opioid safety. This quality improvement team developed a predictive model, based on electronic health record data, to identify high-risk opioid users in order to provide targeted monitoring and intervention via a clinical decision support tool. The model included known risk factors for opioid-related harm, such as type of medication, dose, and coprescribed sedating medications as well as medical and mental health conditions. Investigators developed and validated the model using data from 2010 and tested its ability to predict overdose or suicide attempt in 2011. The model successfully and prospectively identified patients at risk for suicide attempt or overdose. They then used the electronic health record to provide physicians with an overdose or suicide risk estimate and a checklist of risk mitigation strategies at the point of care. The authors suggest that further study of the implementation of this risk mitigation strategy in primary care is needed.
Brennan PL, Del Re AC, Henderson PT, et al. Transl Behav Med. 2016;6:605-612.
Opioids are considered high-risk medications and overdoses are common. Guidelines have been developed to facilitate safe prescribing practices. This study across 141 facilities within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health system demonstrated that as adherence to urine drug screening guidelines increased from 2010 to 2013, the risk of suicide and overdose events among VA patients receiving prescription opioids decreased over the same period. The authors conclude that opioid therapy guidelines may have a positive impact on patient safety.
Kanerva A, Lammintakanen J, Kivinen T. Perspect Psych Care. 2016;52:25-31.
Although patient safety has been a focus of nursing care in hospitals, this study found significant gaps in nurses' perceptions of patient safety in psychiatric inpatient units. For example, none of the interviewed nurses mentioned the importance of preventing inpatient suicide, which was the topic of a recent Joint Commission sentinel event alert.