It is 3:30 p.m. on a Thursday and Mr. B, a 67-year-old patient, arrives at the six-room emergency department (ED) of a sixty-bed rural hospital. He has been brought to the hospital by his son and neighbor. At this time, Mr. B is moaning and complaining of severe pain to his (L) leg and hip area. He states he lost his balance and fell after tripping over his dog.
Mr. B was admitted to the triage room where his vital signs were B/P 120/80, HR-88 (regular), T-98.6, and R-32, and his weight was recorded at 175 pounds. Mr. B. states that he has no known allergies and no previous falls. He states, “My hip area and leg hurt really bad. I have never had anything like this before.” Patient rates pain at 10 out of 10 on the numerical verbal pain scale. He appears to be in moderate distress. His (L) leg appears shortened with swelling (edema in the calf), ecchymosis, and limited range of motion (ROM). Mr. B’s leg is stabilized and then is further evaluated and discharged from triage to the emergency department (ED) patient room. He is admitted by Nurse J. Nurse J finds that Mr. B has a history of impaired glucose tolerance and prostate cancer. At Mr. B’s last visit with his primary care physician, laboratory data revealed elevated cholesterol and lipids. Mr. B’s current medications are atorvastatin and oxycodone for chronic back pain. After Mr. B’s assessment is completed, Nurse J informs Dr. T, the ED physician, of admission findings, and Dr. T proceeds to examine Mr. B.
Staffing on this day consists of two nurses (one RN and one LPN), one secretary, and one emergency department physician. Respiratory therapy is in-house and available as needed. At the time of Mr. B’s arrival, the ED staff is caring for two other patients. One patient is a 43-year-old female complaining of a throbbing headache. The patient rates current pain at 4 out of 10 on numerical verbal pain scale. The patient states that she has a history of migraines. She received treatment, remains stable, and discharge is pending. The second patient is an eight-year-old boy being evaluated for possible appendicitis. Laboratory results are pending for this patient. Both of these patients were examined, evaluated, and cared for by Dr. T and are awaiting further treatment or orders.
After evaluation of Mr. B, Dr. T writes the order for Nurse J to administer diazepam 5 mg IVP to Mr. B. The medication diazepam is administered IVP at 4:05 p.m. After five minutes, the diazepam appears to have had no effect on Mr. B, and Dr. T instructs Nurse J to administer hydromorphone 2 mg IVP. The medication hydromorphone is administered IVP at 4:15 p.m. After five minutes, Dr. T is still not satisfied with the level of sedation Mr. B has achieved and instructs Nurse J to administer another 2 mg of hydromorphone IVP and an additional 5 mg of diazepam IVP. The physician’s goal is for the patient to achieve skeletal muscle relaxation from the diazepam, which will aid in the manual manipulation, relocation, and alignment of Mr. B’s hip. The hydromorphone IVP was administered to achieve pain control and sedation. After reviewing the patient’s medical history, Dr. T notes that the patient’s weight and current regular use of oxycodone appear to be making it more difficult to sedate Mr. B.
Finally, at 4:25 p.m., the patient appears to be sedated, and the successful reduction of his (L) hip takes place. The patient appears to have tolerated the procedure and remains sedated. He is not currently on any supplemental oxygen. The procedure concludes at 4:30 p.m.,and Mr. B is resting without indications of discomfort and distress. At this time, the ED receives an emergency dispatch call alerting the emergency department that the emergency rescue unit paramedics are enroute with a 75-year-old patient in acute respiratory distress. Nurse J places Mr. B on an automatic blood pressure machine programmed to monitor his B/P every five minutes and a pulse oximeter. At this time, Nurse J leaves Mr. B’s room. The nurse allows Mr. B’s son to sit with him as he is being monitored via the blood pressure monitor. At 4:35 p.m., Mr. B’s B/P is 110/62 and his O2 saturation is 92%. He remains without supplemental oxygen and his ECG and respirations are not monitored.
Nurse J and the LPN on duty have received the emergency transport patient. They are also in the process of discharging the other two patients. Meanwhile, the ED lobby has become congested with new incoming patients. At this time, Mr. B’s O2 saturation alarm is heard and shows “low O2 saturation” (currently showing a saturation of 85%). The LPN enters Mr. B’s room briefly, resets the alarm, and repeats the B/P reading.
Nurse J is now fully engaged with the emergency care of the respiratory distress patient, which includes assessments, evaluation, and the ordering of respiratory treatments, CXR, labs, etc.
At 4:43 p.m., Mr. B’s son comes out of the room and informs the nurse that the “monitor is alarming.” When Nurse J enters the room, the blood pressure machine shows Mr. B’s B/P reading is 58/30 and the O2 saturation is 79%. The patient is not breathing and no palpable pulse can be detected.
A STAT CODE is called and the son is escorted to the waiting room. The code team arrives and begins resuscitative efforts. When connected to the cardiac monitor, Mr. B is found to be in ventricular fibrillation. CPR begins immediately by the RN, and Mr. B is intubated. He is defibrillated and reversal agents, IV fluids, and vasopressors are administered. After 30 minutes of interventions, the ECG returns to a normal sinus rhythm with a pulse and a B/P of 110/70. The patient is not breathing on his own and is fully dependent on the ventilator. The patient’s pupils are fixed and dilated. He has no spontaneous movements and does not respond to noxious stimuli. Air transport is called, and upon the family’s wishes, the patient is transferred to a tertiary facility for advanced care.
Seven days later, the receiving hospital informed the rural hospital that EEG’s had determined brain death in Mr. B. The family had requested life-support be removed, and Mr. B subsequently died.
Additional information: The hospital where Mr. B. was originally seen and treated had a moderate sedation/analgesia (“conscious sedation”) policy that requires that the patient remains on continuous B/P, ECG, and pulse oximeter throughout the procedure and until the patient meets specific discharge criteria (i.e., fully awake, VSS, no N/V, and able to void). All practitioners who perform moderate sedation must first successfully complete the hospital’s moderate sedation training module. The training module includes drug selection as well as acceptable dose ranges. Additional (backup) staff was available on the day of the incident. Nurse J had completed the moderate sedation module. Nurse J had current ACLS certification and was an experienced critical care nurse. Nurse J’s prior annual clinical evaluations by the manager demonstrated that the nurse was “meeting requirements.” Nurse J did not have a history of negligent patient care. Sufficient equipment was available and in working order in the ED on this day.
A. Explain the general purpose of conducting a root cause analysis (RCA).
1. Explain each of the six steps used to conduct an RCA, as defined by IHI.
2. Apply the RCA process to the scenario to describe the causative and contributing factors that led to the sentinel event outcome.
A & A1 responses provide general information, and do not relate to the scenario. Describe in your own words. A numbered list can be used for A1.
For A2 apply Steps 1-4 of the RCA process to the scenario being sure to conclude with the causative and contributing factors.
Step 1: Identify what happened. The team must try to describe what happened accurately and completely. To organize and further clarify information about the event, some teams create a flowchart, a simple tool that allows you to draw a picture of what happened in the order it occurred.
Step 2: Determine what should have happened. The team has to determine what would have happened in ideal conditions. It can be useful to create a flow chart based on this information and compare it to the chart from Step 1.
Step 3: Determine causes (“Ask why five times”). This is where the team determines the factors that contributed to the event. Teams look at direct causes (most apparent) and contributory factors (indirect in nature) during this process. Some experts recommend that RCA teams “ask why five times” to get at an underlying or root cause. The IHI Open School provides online courses in quality improvement, patient safety, leadership, patient- and family-centered care, managing health care operations, and population health. These courses are free for students, residents, and professors of all health professions, and available by subscription to health professionals. One useful tool for identifying factors and grouping them is a fishbone diagram (also known as an “Ishikawa” or “cause and effect” diagram), a graphic tool used to explore and display the possible causes of a certain effect. Seven different factors influence clinical practice and medical error: patient characteristics, task factors, individual staff member, team factors, work environment, organizational and management factors, institutional context.
Step 4: Develop causal statements. A causal statement links the cause (identified in Step 3) to its effects and then back to the main event that prompted the RCA in the first place. By creating causal statements, we explain how the contributory factors – which are basically a set of facts about current conditions – contribute to bad outcomes for patients and staff. A causal statement has three parts: the cause (“This happened …”), the effect (“ … which led to something else happening …”), and the event (“ … which caused this undesirable outcome”).
Step 5: Generate a list of recommended actions to prevent the recurrence of the event. Recommended actions are changes that the RCA team thinks will help prevent the error under review from occurring in the future. Recommendations often fall into one of these categories: i. Standardizing equipment ii. Ensuring redundancy, such as using double checks or backup systems iii. Using forcing functions that physically prevent users from making common mistakes iv. Changing the physical plant v. Updating or improving software vi. Using cognitive aids, such as checklists, labels, or mnemonic devices vii. Simplifying a process viii. Educating staff ix. Developing new policies Some actions are more effective than others at dealing with the root causes of error. The National Center for Patient Safety defines strong, intermediate, and weak actions: i. A strong action is likely to eliminate or greatly reduce the likelihood of an event. ii. An intermediate action is likely to control the root cause or vulnerability. iii. A weak action by itself is less likely to be effective.
Step 6: Write a summary and share it. This can be an opportunity to engage the key players to help drive the next steps in improvement. To organize and further clarify information about the event, some teams create a flowchart, simple tool that allows you to draw a picture of what happened in the order it occurred.
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