Safety and quality of care for psychiatric patients is a relatively understudied area of patient safety research. This scoping review explores patient safety strategies used in psychiatry. The review identified seven key strategies that rely on staff performance, competence, and compliance – (1) risk management, (2) healthcare practitioners, (3) patient observation, (4) patient involvement, (5) computerized methods, (6) admission and discharge, and (7) security. These strategies primarily target reductions in suicide, self-harm, violence, and falls.
Researchers reviewed 15 years of root cause analysis reports of all instances of suicide and suicide attempts on Veterans Health Administration (VHA) grounds. Forty-seven suicides or suicide attempts were identified, and primary root causes included communication breakdown and a need for improved suicide interventions. The paper includes recommended actions to address the root causes of attempted and completed patient suicides.
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.
This editorial proposes adapting a patient safety paradigm – Safety-I or Safety-II – to provide insights into suicidal behavioral, as it is a preventable outcome and health services play an important role in reducing its incidence. The new paradigm – Safety III – would incorporate on health services research combined with ethnography and strong patient/public involvement.
This exploratory systematic review aimed to describe the state of the research on patient safety in inpatient mental health settings. Authors included 364 papers, representing 31 countries and data from over 150,000 participants. The existing research base was categorized into ten broad safety categories – interpersonal violence, coercive interventions, safety culture, harm to self, safety of the physical environment, medication safety, unauthorized leave, clinical decision making, falls, and infection prevention/control; papers were of varying quality with the majority of papers assessed as “fair”. The authors note that several areas of patient safety in inpatient mental health are particularly understudied, such as suicide, as the review only yielded one study meeting inclusion criteria.
Karlamangla S. Los Angeles Times. December 1, 2019.
Patient suicide is considered a sentinel event. This feature shares an examination of approximately 100 preventable deaths in the State of California over a decade. An examination of the case records identified breakdowns in care processes such as lack of training, low staffing and human error.
Mokkenstorm JK, Kerkhof AJFM, Smit JH, et al. Suicide Life Threat Behav. 2018;48:745-754.
Suicide in all settings is considered a sentinel event. This commentary describes an aspirational suicide eradication program. The approach combines direct identification of suicidal behavior and treatment, system-focused process improvements, and organizational safety culture as interdependent strategies for eliminating suicide. A previous WebM&M commentary discussed a suicide attempt on an inpatient medical unit.
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.
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.
Mills PD, King LA, Watts B, et al. Gen Hosp Psych. 2013;35:528-536.
This study examined inpatient suicides at Veterans Affairs hospitals and provided recommendations for mitigating risks. Hanging by using equipment present in psychiatric wards was the most common method of suicide.
Cullen SW, Nath SB, Marcus SC. Psychiatr Q. 2010;81:197-205.
The authors used focus groups and interviews to develop a taxonomy of errors in inpatient psychiatry and explore underlying systems causes of the errors. Medication errors, diagnostic errors, and failure to prevent patient harm (such as suicide attempts) were among the common types of errors identified.
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