Letter From the Editor
As our second pandemic winter approaches in North America, we are in a much different place than we were a year ago. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 194 million people in the United States have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Last month, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first vaccines for children ages 5 to 12, a huge relief for many parents, including me. We now have real hope that we might soon see the end of this pandemic—but it isn’t over yet. Colder weather will bring more activities indoors, and the holiday season will bring families and friends together in celebration. Both increase the risk of spreading respiratory diseases.
While the pandemic continues, we are only just beginning to understand its long-term impact on healthcare. Nurses have been carrying a heavy burden: caring for COVID-19 patients on the front lines, risking their own safety as well as the safety of their loved ones. Just when we need them most, many nurses feel abandoned and expendable. In one of our cover stores, Cassandra Alexander relates the toll the daily struggle has taken on her mental health—a sobering glimpse at the experiences of nurses like her around the country.
When it comes to both the pandemic and patient safety, we know two things: positive change takes time, and we are all in it together. One critical way to make healthcare safer is to involve the patients themselves. Managing Editor Cait Allen interviewed patient engagement expert Dr. Judith Hibbard about why it is important to activate patients in their own healthcare and how to do it. And to demonstrate the benefits of patients being informed and engaged, Rick Kundravi shares how his mother’s lifestyle helped her avoid many of the health problems associated with aging.
We also know that when clinicians work closely with their patients, there are usually better outcomes, in some cases for both the patients and healthcare staff. This is a strategy for mitigating the risk of perioperative delirium and agitation, one of several interventions that researchers Matthew Taylor and William Pileggi offer in their data analysis of safety events related to the use of anesthetics.
Also featured this month: Lea Anne Gardner and Melanie Motts look at the challenges new-onset atrial fibrillation presents for ambulatory surgical facilities, with an analysis of surveys and data related to cancellations and transfers.
Guidelines discourage using benzodiazepines in conjunction with opioid pain medications in older adults—so why is it still happening, how often does it occur, and what are the consequences for geriatric patients? Elizabeth Kukielka addresses these questions and more in a new data analysis.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are often treated in long-term care facilities, but they’re notoriously difficult to diagnose. To better understand the reasons and risks for residents, authors Amy Harper and Shawn Kepner studied the patient safety event reports and share the trends in rates and most common types of infections, as well as a toolkit they developed to help reduce the occurrence of UTIs and promote antibiotic stewardship.
Best wishes for a safe, healthy holiday season!