First do no harm: Teaching and assessing the recognition and rescue of deteriorating patients to nursing students

Guy Tucker, John Unsworth, Yvonne Hindmarsh


Failure to recognise and appropriately rescue the deteriorating patient is a global issue which has the potential to cause serious harm to patients. Such recognition and rescue of a deteriorating patient requires both technical and non-technical skills and there are multiple points for potential failure. The taking and recording of vital observations is one of the cornerstones of recognising deterioration. However, such observations are often delegated to students and the least experienced staff. This paper explores the teaching and assessment of under-graduate nursing students to recognise and arrange the rescue of a deteriorating patient within the first 16 weeks of their course. The paper describes the development of an integrated Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) and the subsequent evaluation of this using survey data, student performance results and unobtrusive methods. The results suggest that it is possible to use an integrated OSCE to assess students even at such an early stage in their course. Although data from other Higher Education Institutions in the UK suggests that integrated OSCEs at such an early stage are rare. The appropriate teaching of vital observations, structured hand off and reporting enable students to contribute to safer care and to adhere to the maxim “First Do No Harm”.

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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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