Optimizing the Role Nurses Play in Preventing Pediatric Deaths: An Application of Situational Awareness

Up to 23,000 preventable deaths are estimated to occur each year in Canadian hospitals. Nurses who provide care at the bedside are well positioned to promote patient safety, because a critical component of their role is to notice and gauge potential risks. Although research suggests that nurses’ workload, training and experience influence patient mortality, little is known about the actual processes that nurses use to prevent or reduce error. Kim Shearer is applying the model of “Situational Awareness” (SA) to study pediatric nurses performing resuscitation of children in hospital. SA – defined as knowing what is going on in your environment – has been proposed as the primary basis for decision-making and performance in complex, dynamic systems, helping researchers understand how threats within the environment are gauged and safety is facilitated. Kim’s study will identify factors that promote or impede nurses’ ability to gauge the work environment and make decisions, generating the basic knowledge needed to create computer simulations for teaching and testing SA in pediatric resuscitation. Findings of this research will help to prevent or minimize error and enable development of novel health education interventions to improve SA and hence the safety of children in dynamic and complex acute care environments.