Henneman Recognizes the Positive Role of Nurses

AACN Distinguished Research Lecturer Dr. Elizabeth Henneman spoke Monday about the pivotal role critical care nurses play in patient safety.

“One of the things I love about my work is it recognizes the positive things that nurses do,” Henneman, an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, College of Nursing, said.

The Distinguished Research Lecturer is one of the most prestigious awards in critical care nursing. It was established in 1982 and is funded by a grant from Philips Healthcare.

Henneman was recognized for her research into critical care nurses’ role in recovering medical errors at the point of care. Medical errors are common in ICUs and frequently place nurses in a position to manage adverse outcomes and improve patient safety.

“Too many people are dying of medical errors,” Henneman said.

To address the unique position of nurses in these situations, Henneman and her colleagues have used qualitative research and a focus-group method to collect data on how nurses identify, interrupt and correct medical errors. According to her lecture, nurses use eight strategies to identify errors, three strategies to interrupt them and six strategies to correct them.

“These findings provide support for the principled and unwavering extent to which nurses will go to keep their patients safe in complex, high-risk, error-prone environments,” Henneman said.

Henneman’s research on the issue is continuing. She is currently using eye-tracking technology to show how nurses and physicians carry out routine but error-prone processes such as administering and ordering medications.

“The theory behind the use of eye-tracking is there’s a connection between what a person looks at and what they’re thinking about,” Henneman said. “But I also understand that there are limitations to the use of eye tracking. It’s not always what you look at that matters, it’s what you see. Two people can look at the same thing but see very different things.”

She is also currently working on a paper about how nurses manage interruptions and has come up with a strategy called STAY S.A.F.E. It urges nurses to stay focused on a task, say out loud what they are doing, acknowledge the person without looking away from their task, fixate on data for 1 to 2 seconds, and estimate the time it will take to attend to the person interrupting them.