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Urgency can lead to medical mistakes

If you’ve ever spent time in a hospital, you know that medical professionals often appear to be in a hurry. They work in a fast-paced environment. They rush from room to room, from procedure to procedure. When a call comes in, they hurry to the next appointment.

This is even more pronounced in an emergency room or another part of a hospital dealing with emergency procedures. Things like this are impossible to predict and harder to prepare for. Doctors cannot count on a set schedule and have to react to the current crisis.

One problem with this type of environment, though it may be unavoidable in certain situations, is that it can lead to medical mistakes.

The role of urgency

To illustrate this point, a Joint Commission working with the American College of Surgeons created a hypothetical procedure in which a wrong-site surgery took place. They used a lot of common factors found with medical mistakes to paint a picture of how this could happen.

In the example, the team operated on the wrong lung. They did discover their mistake and correct it in the end. That is a rather optimistic reading of the situation, though, as not all mistakes can be corrected so easily. A wrong-site amputation, for instance, may have a drastic and life-altering impact on a patient’s health.

One of the reasons for the mistake was that the operating room that the team was intending to use was instead used by another team before them, which ran over their projected time. This pushed the procedure back. When the second team finally did get into the room, they were behind schedule and they had other teams lined up behind them, waiting to use that same room.

All of this created that sense of urgency. They wanted to rush and hurry, to get back on schedule. They didn’t want to keep people waiting. Could that make them careless? Would it make them overlook clear evidence of an error that they would have noticed if they’d just taken a bit longer with the procedure?

As noted above, you cannot always avoid this. Urgency is real. Many teams do need to use the same rooms, and some procedures have added urgency for the health of the patient.

Even so, medical teams must remain aware of what is happening, what steps they’re taking and what they can do to avoid a critical error. Rushing is simply not worth it when someone could suffer serious harm as a result.

What now?

Maybe you have already gotten injured or lost a loved one to a medical mistake. It is important to find out what you can do now and what rights you may have to financial compensation.

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