National Time Out Day Celebrates Adoption of First Universal Protocol to Prevent Errors in U.S. Operating Rooms


DENVER -- For the first time, nurses, surgeons and

accredited hospitals throughout the country are being required to adopt a

common set of operating room procedures in an effort to eliminate the alarming

number of deaths and injuries due to wrong-site, wrong procedure and wrong

person surgeries.

Six national healthcare organizations and associations, led by the

Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN), have joined together to

promote the adoption of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare

Organizations' Universal Protocol for preventing wrong site surgery errors in

U.S. operating rooms. To promote the new requirements, surgeons,

perioperative nurses, anesthesiologists and other members of the healthcare

team have declared June 23, 2004 National Time Out Day.

On July 1, 2004, all Joint Commission-accredited hospitals, ambulatory care and

office-based surgery facilities will be required to take a "time out" before a

surgery begins. The "time out" is a final step before a surgical procedure to

verify that the correct procedure will be performed on the correct patient.

According to the Institute of Medicine Nov. 1999 report, "To Err Is

Human," an estimated 44,000 to 98,000 Americans lose their lives due to

medical errors each year (from all procedures, not just surgeries). Untold

thousands more suffer injury or illness as a result of preventable errors.

National Time Out Day was created to increase awareness and generate

greater urgency for implementation of the Universal Protocol among the health

care community. The "time out" is one of several requirements of the

Universal Protocol that will apply to the more than 70 million surgeries

performed annually.

The National Time Out Day is one of many efforts underway to increase

patient safety and identify the cause of errors. It is significant because it

represents collaboration among nurses, physicians and health care executives

to reduce errors and improve care.

Besides AORN, the organizations promoting National Time Out Day are the

Joint Commission the American Hospital Association, the American College of

Surgeons, the American Society of Anesthesiologists, and the American Society

for Health care Risk Management. Approximately 50 healthcare associations

are endorsing the Universal Protocol. Beginning July 1, 2004, 4,579

accredited hospitals, 1,261 accredited ambulatory care facilities and 138

accredited office-based surgery centers will be implementing the Universal


"Having a standardized set of operating room guidelines will reduce

medical errors and is, therefore, of critical importance to the quality of

patient care in this country," said Bill Duffy, RN, BSN, MJ, CNOR, president

of AORN.

"AORN and our partners in the health care community have planned National

Time Out Day as a way to show the public that we are serious about patient

safety and are taking the necessary steps to reduce errors that can result in

preventable injuries and deaths," Duffy said.

AORN has created a special National Time Out Day Web site,, and distributed 55,000 tool kits to healthcare

professionals throughout the country to help facilitate that implementation.

Patients and their families are encouraged to have ongoing communication

with their health care providers about their medical care. Better

communication among patients, nurses and physicians is an important ingredient

to improve overall care.

AORN is the professional organization of perioperative registered nurses

whose mission is to support registered nurses in achieving optimal outcomes

for patients undergoing operative and other invasive procedures.

AORN promotes quality patient care by providing its members with

education, standards, services, and representation. AORN is composed of

40,000 perioperative registered nurses in approximately 6,700 hospitals and

3,500 ambulatory surgery centers in all 50 states and around the world. These

nurses work on the front lines, caring for patients from pre-surgery through

surgery and recovery, so no one is better qualified or has the capacity to

advocate for and ensure patient safety in the surgical setting.

Source: Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN)

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