Incident (occurrence) reporting: a cornerstone for safety and quality improvement

Workplace safety

Incident reporting is a powerful source of infor­ma­tion. When used effec­tively, it provides a factual descrip­tion of an adverse event or near miss that supports learning, safety and improved care quality. Most health care entities utilize an electronic incident reporting system to identify oppor­tu­ni­ties for improvement.

Health care facility regula­tion requires tracking of medical errors and adverse events, though it is estimated that only 10 – 20 percent of occur­rences are reported. Incident reporting systems are used to gather event infor­ma­tion using a struc­tured format. This facil­i­tates analysis of data using metrics such as event type, frequency, severity, location, day, date and time of occur­rence in the workplace.

Ten tips for incident reporting

  1. Report events that are incon­sis­tent with the routine care of a patient or are incon­sis­tent with the usual opera­tions of the health care facility.
  2. Report events of workplace violence (injury and near miss events).
  3. Report near miss events for tracking, trending and the oppor­tu­nity to improve safety/​quality before an adverse event reaches a patient, staff member or visitor.
  4. Complete an incident report if you are the first person/​observer on the scene.
  5. Complete the report close to incident time and prefer­ably before end of the shift.
  6. Write objec­tively, providing event facts (e.g., direct obser­va­tions, actions taken, assis­tance provided and communication(s) initiated).
  7. Use quota­tion marks if it is neces­sary to include patient / witness accounts in the incident report.
  8. Avoid assign­ment of blame, hearsay or assumptions.
  9. Immedi­ately report signif­i­cant events of harm directly to your super­visor and to risk manage­ment, quality and/​or safety personnel as soon as possible after the event and submit an incident report.
  10. Follow your facility policy / guide­lines for filing an incident report.

According to the Joint Commis­sion, nurses submit the highest number of incident reports. This is a testa­ment to your dedica­tion to safe and quality care in the profes­sional practice environ­ment. Keep up the good work and strive to increase incident reporting!