Policies describe conditions that must exist to facilitate exemplary patient care, and they represent non-negotiable requirements. Unit policies provide the authority for unit management and decision-making. Policy statements are necessary to ensure consistency related to the utilization of human, environmental, and material resources. Policies should complement the standards of care determined by professional associations.

The development of a policy requires careful balancing of quality and cost, with the objective of promoting optimal quality of care and appropriate allocation of resources. Well-developed policies provide valuable direction for clinical decision-making.

Policy statements are normally limited to issues requiring rigid regulation, and must be developed with input from all appropriate stakeholders. These policy statements must be given authority and support from hospital and unit administration, and physicians and other health care workers must be held accountable for deviations from written policy. Mechanisms for monitoring and revision are essential if policies are to remain useful and current.

Policies that fail to meet the needs of a unit, are not utilized as intended, or bypass intermittent review and revision are wasted efforts. A policy statement that is inconsistent with actual unit practice may increase liability by encouraging practice that is in conflict with expected standards and may promote complacency towards policies in general.

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