By The Denver Post
Monday, November 25, 2002 - Operating room nurses worried that procedures aren't being followed or that medications may be labeled in a way that causes confusion now have a place to turn for help.
The Association of periOperative Registered Nurses, based in the Denver area, has set up a toll-free hotline that nurses can call with all kinds of concerns.
The hotline is part of a comprehensive program aimed at helping nurses reduce the number of errors in patient care, said association spokeswoman Laura Casanova.
A 1998 report by the independent Institute of Medicine estimated that 98,000 people in the United States die each year as a result of medical errors.
Since it was launched in April, the center has had between 150 and 200 calls. Most have been procedural questions, or technical questions about issues such as sterilizing surgical instruments, Casanova said.
If the question were about more serious situations or mistakes that actually harmed a patient, the caller would probably be directed to a regulatory agency, she said.
When a nurse calls the hotline - and nearly all the calls so far have been from nurses, Casanova said - he or she leaves a message and an association nurse calls back with an answer or advice within 24 hours.
Nurses can also e-mail the association with questions and concerns.
Casanova said the system isn't really set up to handle complaints or inquiries from the general public, although recent publicity about the hotline produced dozens of calls and e-mails from patients. The association tries to refer those to appropriate agencies, she said.