Patients Count on It: An Initiative to Reduce Incorrect Counts and Prevent Retained Surgical Items

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Retained surgical items were the most frequently reported sentinel event in 2010, according to The Joint Commission. Perioperative nurse leaders at Children's Hospital Boston, a pediatric teaching hospital, conducted a quality improvement initiative to reduce or eliminate incorrect counts and count discrepancies, which increase the risk of an item being unintentionally retained after surgery. Work included educating the perioperative staff members, standardizing count practices, formally reviewing every reported count discrepancy with the nursing team, and reviewing and revising the count policy for prevention of retained surgical items. The initiative reduced the number of incorrect counts and count discrepancies by 50% between 2009 to 2010. These initiatives continue to be expanded, and the results have been sustained on an ongoing basis.

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