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Hospital Shift Changes A Dangerous Time For Patients

Fri, 11/16/2012 - 9:58am
Alvin Tran

Before physicians at Massachusetts General Hospital finish their 13-hour shifts in the surgical intensive care unit, they hand off their patients to the crew taking over. The outgoing and incoming doctors carefully exchange important information about each patient to ensure that they are properly cared for through the next shift.

Cheryl Ryan, a clinical nurse specialist who works in the surgical ICU, says the doctors begin conversing about the sickest patients and then make their way down the entire list. “It’s based on the acuity of patients,” she said, “It’s just a standard way they have developed over time.”

But many hospitals don’t follow such a process, increasing the risk of medical errors, according to Dr. Michael Cohen of the University of Michigan.

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