By Chris Vinton, Medical Solutions Quality Assurance Specialist
The Joint Commission occasionally pushes out Sentinel Event Alerts with information about particular issues they find concerning. These issues range from preventing falls to healthcare worker fatigue, much like the topics addressed here on Clinical Corner. The alerts are very important, so we want to make sure that this info is available to all of our Travelers. The Joint Commission Sentinel Event Alert #56 is all about detecting and treating suicide.
The rate of suicide is increasing in the United States. Suicide claims more people every year than both traffic accidents and homicides. More often than not, people who become victims of suicide often receive healthcare services in the year prior to their death. Detection and treatment of suicidal thoughts are becoming increasingly important. Suicide victims are often thought to fit a profile — such as a person who abuses drugs, has a history of trauma, or is socially isolated. People who have these risk factors are more likely to become suicide victims, however, that certainly does not mean that these risk factors will always lead to suicide or that the absence of them means an individual is safe from suicide. With this alert, The Joint Commission is seeking to motivate nurses and organizations to use a comprehensive behavioral health plan to identify and prevent suicide.
The Joint Commission has several recommendations for nurses in a general hospital or clinical settings:
- Review each patient’s personal and family medical history for suicide risks.
- Screen all patients for suicide ideation using a brief, standardized, evidence-based screening tool.
- Review screening questionnaires before the patient leaves the appointment or is discharged.
- Take actions using assessment results to inform the level of safety measures needed.
Patients most at risk for suicide will need to have immediate access to behavioral health. Restrict access to lethal means, such as prescription medications, and conduct a safety plan. Give every patient at risk for suicide the number to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Conduct safety planning by collaboratively identifying coping strategies with the patient and providing resources to reduce risk.
The advice in this alert applies to all patients in all settings. Using the above recommendations might just change someone’s life. Just remember, identifying risk factors is very important in preventing suicide, but not every victim of suicide has these factors. It is important to make sure every patient you come in contact with feels valued and comforted in every interaction.
This article was only a small snippet of information for this Joint Commission Sentinel Event Alert. Click here to view the entire document.
If you, a family member, or a patient needs immediate help, the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1.800.273.8255.