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He Thought the “Lady in the Door” Was the “Lady in the Window”: A Qualitative Study of Patient Identification Practices

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Background: Accurate patient identification (PT ID) is a key component in hospital patient safety practices and was addressed by one of the first six Joint Commission National Patient Safety Goals, which were introduced in 2003. Although the literature on patient safety practices is replete with discussion of strategies for improvement, less is known about frontline providers' subjective views. A qualitative study was conducted to examine the subjective views and experiences of nurses and residents regarding PT ID at an urban teaching hospital.

Methods: Some 15 registered nurses and 15 residents were interviewed between August 2009 and June 2010. Transcripts were analyzed using qualitative methodologies.

Findings: Although residents and nurses viewed PT ID as crucial to patient safety, they cited time pressures; confidence in their ability to informally identify patients; and a desire to deliver personal, humanistic care as reasons for not consistently verifying patient identification. Nurses expressed concern about annoying, offending, and/or alienating patients by repeatedly checking wristbands and asking date of birth, in the belief that excessive patient identification practices could undermine trust. Residents relied on nurses to check ID and preferred to greet the patient by name, a practice that they viewed as more consistent with their professional identity. Referring to patients by their room number and location was cited as a commonly used practice of PT ID and a contributor to errors in identification.

Conclusions: Nurses and residents are aware of the importance and requirements to verify PT ID, but their adherence is mitigated by a variety of factors, including assessment of necessity or risk, impact on their relationship with the patient, and practices in place in the hospital environment that protect patient privacy.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-03-01

More about this publication?
  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    David W. Baker, MD, MPH, FACP, executive vice president for the Division of Healthcare Quality Evaluation at The Joint Commission, is the inaugural editor-in-chief of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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