March 9-13, 2015 is National Patient Safety Awareness Week (NPSAW), an annual education and awareness campaign for health care safety sponsored by the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF). Each year, we join health care organizations around the country in this event by creating awareness of patient safety in the community and among hospital staff and patients.
The NPSAW theme for 2015 is “United in Safety,” a focus on patient and family centeredness that emphasizes the importance of the relationship between health care providers and our patients.
There are many ways for patients to stay safe in the hospital, and many ways that we can engage families to help. Here are some simple things patients can do to be an informed health care consumer:
- Make sure your health care team introduce themselves to you and wash their hands before providing care to you. If someone forgets to do this, you can say, “My name is xyz, what is your name?” or “I know you care about my safety. Would you please wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before touching me?”
- Keep track of your medical history and update your care providers at each visit.
- Know your medications, and bring them with you to office visits.
- Tell your doctors, nurses, and pharmacists (especially if you use a commercial pharmacy) if you develop allergies to any medications.
- Write down the names and phone numbers of your doctors, clinics and pharmacies for easy reference.
- Bring a family member or friend with you to the hospital or to doctors’ visits. Ask them to listen to instructions with you or ask questions about your care.
- If something doesn’t seem right, ask until you get a satisfactory answer. Speak up!
- Ask about all possible treatment options and discuss the risks and benefits of each with your care provider.
- Ask for instructions in writing.
- Take your medications as prescribed. If you can’t afford your medications, let your doctor know. There may be options available to assist you.
- Be a partner in your own care.Ask questions.
When patients and families “Speak up” it is important for health care providers to listen. Here are a few things we can do to partner with our patients:
- Always introduce yourself to your patients and their families.
- Always wash your hands/use sanitizer before and after providing care.
- Sit down when possible, and look at the patient, not the computer screen while talking to the patient.
- Explain medical information in easy to understand plain language, not medical jargon.
- Provide a translator if English is not easily understood.
- Provide information in writing.
- Recommend second opinions.
- Communicate any changes to the rest of the care team.
- Ask the patient/family if they have any questions or concerns.
These recommendations seem like common sense, yet we know they don’t always happen. We can change that! Everyone plays a role in delivering safe care and by working together on that common goal, we can make a difference in patient safety. Everyone from the front lines to the executive suite is “United” in the goal of keeping patients and those who care for them free from harm. Enhanced communication begins with an informed and engaged patient/family and this leads to safer care.
Source: National Patient Safety Foundation
Lori Notowitz, RN, MJ, CPPS, is Director of Patient Safety & Advocacy at the University of Vermont Medical Center, part of the James M. Jeffords Institute for Quality and Operational Effectiveness.