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Assessing and managing risk

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Assessing and managing risk is a core aspect of nursing and healthcare. There are risks inherent in every action or omission in relation to patient care, as there are in all areas of our lives.

Although there is no legal concept of 'risk', there is 'negligence', which may be deemed to have occurred where insufficient action was taken to mitigate harm.

There are also ethical principles underpinning all the decisions that we make on a daily basis. We make decisions and act, consciously or otherwise, in ways that may champion the individual over the wider patient population, or conversely, to protect the public at the risk of causing harm to an individual.

Safety versus harm
Above all, we must strive to do no harm to our patients, but it is not as simple as giving everyone what we think is best for them. Risk is about safety versus harm, neither of which is an absolute concept - you can never say something is 100 per cent safe - nor can you say that taking a particular medication to prevent heart disease will actually do so for that individual.

There are also risks inherent in omissions: in choosing not to do things, such as not prescribing a medication for a patient or on a wider scale, deciding not to provide a particular treatment or service for a given population.

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