Speaking up to protect patient safety
Karryn Christiansen says one of the biggest sources of unease in nursing is not knowing what happens to patients after they are discharged.
“You care for patients and then they leave,” said Christiansen, an acute care nurse on the bone marrow transplant (BMT) unit at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital.
It’s why when patients are in her care, she is a fierce advocate for their safety.
“We want patients to feel safe and cared for at all times while they are here,” said Christiansen whose nurse spidey senses recently activated when she saw something suspicious happening in a patient’s room.
Christiansen was recently caring for an elderly patient with dementia when she received warning about a family member who was possibly taking financial advantage of the patient. Knowing the patient’s mental status was compromised, Christiansen took action.
“I saw her purse and decided to bag it up and store it with security,” said Christiansen.
Sydney Redland, nurse manager on the BMT unit said Christiansen, “brings integrity and critical thinking to her nursing practice every single day.”
Later Christiansen passed by the patient’s room and noticed a young man at the bedside. He was holding a checkbook and the patient was signing a handful of checks.
“He was flipping through and she was just signing away,” said Christiansen. “It didn’t look right at all.”
After consulting Redland, she went in the room to give the patient medication, and calmly mentioned to the young man that the patient’s mental status was altered and it wasn’t appropriate for her to be signing anything. She urged him to focus on her health needs. She then called the family friend back and reported what she had seen. Aurora Police soon arrived on her unit to interview her about the interaction with the young man.
“It was pretty wild,” said Christiansen who has been with UCHealth for five years. “But it was clear this situation was very serious and there were some financial liberties being taken with a vulnerable patient.”
Redland praised her for having a difficult conversation with a family member, and for listening to those very real spidey senses.
“There are all kinds of ways to help keep our patients safe,” said Redland.
With the Aurora police involved, Christiansen is hopeful the patient will be kept safe, even outside the hospital.
“I’m so glad I said something,” said Christiansen.