Table 1

Examples of safety critical processes and prioritisation on newborn units

Task/work focusObservations/experiencePrioritisation
Full assessment and documentation of admission by medical and nursing teams.Documentation tasks regarded as professional norms may be prioritised over clinical needs.Agree clear rules on elements of documentation and clinical action that are critical and those that can be deferred to a lower workload period.
Cleaning/disinfecting equipment, incubators/cots as part of infection control.Task commonly informally delegated to mother or unskilled worker with limited supervision. Frequently not completed.Agree formal delegation of selected tasks and process of supervision and monitoring. Plan training of unskilled staff to standardise practice and maintain safety.
Checking and documenting babies’ vital signs and routine weighing.Workforce deficits mean recommended frequency rarely achieved. Observations commonly missed, poorly done or sometimes guessed.Prioritise patient groups by need and illness severity.
Develop consistent approach to delegation. Make clear that inaccurate information may be worse than absent information.
Feeding baby prescribed milk volumes through an existing oro/nasogastric tube.Often informally delegated to mother or unskilled worker.
Frequently missed completely at night.
Formalise task sharing or delegation. Train unskilled personnel or family members. Skilled staff check tube position at agreed intervals.
Checking prescribed drug dose calculations during ward rounds.Inexperienced medical staff may not be familiar with neonatal prescribing. Nurses may be reluctant to challenge doctors.Agree dose calculation checking as core responsibility of medical team. Empower all team members to identify and correct errors. Recognise this as a positive intervention and learning opportunity.
Administering oral and intravenous drugs.Time-pressure results in poorly executed procedures and informal delegation to students, unskilled workers and parents.Identify high-risk medicines and prioritise as professional nursing task. Consider planned delegation for less critical medicines (eg, oral vitamins).