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Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital launches Red Light Safety Project

A new patient safety initiative at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital gives nurses the option of turning on a red light indicating they are not to be distracted during tasks critical to patient care. Red lights have been mounted on all pediatric workstations on wheels. In the Pediatric ICU, red lights are mounted on doors.

Designed primarily to prevent interruptions that can lead to medication errors, the idea of a ‘No Interruption Zone’ at Upstate was presented to Upstate’s Pediatric Nursing team by Pamela Haines, RN, MS, assistant director of Nursing Quality and Patient Safety, and it was quickly approved and rolled out this month.

“We spent time investigating various lights and different ways to display them, staff members have received education on their use, and signs will be visible to patient families and visitors,” says Bonnie Seitz, MS, RN, CPN, clinical nurse specialist and pediatric safety officer at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital.

The No Interruption Zone concept is similar to the ‘sterile cockpit’ rule, used by the aviation industry to reduce errors during critical phases of flying by requiring pilots to refrain from activities deemed non-essential to the safety of the flight, and is recommended by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices. Patient medications are typically prepared by nursing staff for delivery and documentation at a workstation on wheels in hallways just outside a patient’s room.

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Cleveland Clinic Marymount Hospital also use the No Interruption Zone model.

Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital Medical Director Thomas Welch, MD, says the overall safety program at Upstate is recognized by other children’s hospitals and Upstate will host all New York children’s hospitals for a statewide program to discuss joint safety efforts.

“Over a decade ago, we committed to a major focus on the safety of our patients. Today, we are part of a national group of children’s hospitals working together to improve safety. The new ‘red light’ project is just one part of our comprehensive safety program,” said Welch.

According to Seitz, all staff at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital have attended the Solutions for Patient Safety Error Prevention Program, which encourages individual’s to make a personal commitment to safety. The program emphasizes safety with initiatives like the Name Game, which gives staff members permission to ask anyone they don’t know to identify themselves and state why they are present on a particular unit. Another initiative is STAR, which asks the staff to Stop, Think, Act and Review when attention to details is required. Additionally, everyone is accountable for clear and complete communication and everyone supports a questioning attitude to qualify sources, validate content, and verify actions.

“Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital has a team of 40 safety coaches who help bedside staff with safety techniques and supporting an environment that greatly encourages commitments to safety,” Seitz said.

Sarah Trust, a registered nurse in the pediatric hematology/oncology unit (11G) at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital, documents patient medications at a workstation-on-wheels outside a patient’s room. Sarah routinely uses the red light on her workstation when she is preparing chemotherapy medications for patients. The Red Light Project is designed in part to reduce medication errors by providing a ‘No Interruption Zone’ while working.

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