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Taking 'time out' prevents wrong site surgeries

Have you heard of National Time Out Day? For about 10 years now, on June 11, doctors, nurses and other medical professionals have observed National Time Out Day to raise awareness around correct surgical procedure. And if you look at national statistics, then you'll realize that more awareness in this regard is sorely needed.

Each week in the United States, it is estimated that between 40 and 60 wrong site surgeries occur. This kind of medical error can devastate lives and leave patients and their families with enormous medical bills, and National Time Out Day is meant to draw attention to the need for surgical teams to take some basic precautions before every invasive procedure.

Questions all surgical teams should pause to ask:

  • Is this the right patient?
  • Is this the correct surgical site?
  • Is this the correct procedure?

Most of us would assume that preventing wrong site surgeries is one of the simplest aspects of providing competent surgical care, and we would be right. These errors are entirely preventable, and when they occur, injured patients should understand their right to hold the surgical team accountable. If the mistake was made by a nurse or a technician, then the hospital may be held liable for medical malpractice.

The Joint Commission, which accredits hospitals and other medical organizations in the United States, requires that surgical teams take a "time out" before every surgery. National Time Out Day is meant to remind those teams that patients' lives are at risk whenever a surgeon, nurse or technician fails to pause and think for the sake of patient safety.

Source: The Tennessean, "National Time Out Day affirms life-saving procedures," Stephanie Davis, June 2, 2014

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