AVOIDING ERRORS WITH GERIATRIC CARE

Here are some tips for avoiding error in geriatric care.As a certified medical assistant, you will have the opportunity to work in a wide array of settings and different fields. While each of these respective options will come with its own risks and rewards, part of working with infants or the elderly is accepting a certain degree of heightened risk.

These people tend to have a higher likelihood of injury or contraction of disease, so it is imperative that the professionals working with them treat them extremely carefully and respectfully.

If you are already working in a geriatric care setting, or intend to be at some point in the future, take a look at these pieces of advice for avoiding errors:

Get to Know Your Patients

In medical care of all kinds, many individuals are often taught to approach the job with a certain degree of removal. This is understandable, as growing too attached to individuals who are ill or may fall ill can set people up to be saddened. Still, it’s extremely important that those working in geriatric care settings take the time to develop relationships with their patients.

These individuals need to understand that you have a genuine interest in them as a person, and are not simply just punching your time card. In turn, you’ll find that the average patient may be more cooperative or receptive to your care. Having a strong understanding of your patient and their trust in your care should streamline care processes and reduce the likelihood for errors to be made.

Don’t be Afraid to Take Breaks

Working with the elderly can be an extremely exhausting line of professional activity. Though it’s obviously noble and very meaningful work, it’s crucial that you are honest with yourself regarding when you need to step back and take a break. According to The National Alliance for Care Giving, you should check with your employer about paid time off and vacation policies before accepting any job.1

Even if you don’t intend to travel or leave the area, taking a few days away from the job here and there can help you to focus on your own life, leave the stress of work behind and breathe for a minute. This will allow you to come back refreshed and ready to work, which is important in that it lets your patients receive the best care possible.

Obviously, when you’re well rested you’re more likely to be at the top of your game and far less likely to commit any errors. If you feel that a potential job is going to be too demanding or cause you to work below the best of your ability due to physical and mental fatigue, you may want to look elsewhere.

Communication is Key

There is barely any margin for error when working in any medical setting. This can be particularly true in geriatric care, where the medicines and treatments of a given patient may change quickly and frequently. For example, West Hartford Patch has reported that a patient at a local nursing home was recently administered a medication for three days after their doctor had ordered its use to be stopped.2

In order to combat these sorts of errors, ensure that you and the rest of the staff have constant, daily communication regarding changes in patient treatment regimens.

1) The National Alliance for Care Giving, ‘Best Practices in Elder Care, 2012,’ 3/1/2012, http://www.caregiving.org/pdf/research/BestPracticesEldercareFINAL.pdf

2) Salzo, Vincent, The West Hartford Patch, ‘West Hartford Nursing Home Fined for Medication Error, 3/23/2015, http://patch.com/connecticut/westhartford/report-west-hartford-nursing-home-fined-medication-error

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