Speak Up….Help Prevent Errors in Your Care
Patient safety is very important to Saint John, and we have made this a top priority. We have put in place several safety programs to maintain and improve the safety of our patients at our facilities. Your comments about safety measures are important to us. We encourage patients to notify their doctor, a nurse or any member of our staff if they have ideas about ways to provide a safe environment.
Everyone has a role in making healthcare safe – physicians, healthcare executives, nurses, technicians and even patients. Patients can play a vital role in making their care safe by becoming an active, involved and informed member of the healthcare team.
An Institute of Medicine (IOM) report has identified medical errors as a serious problem in the healthcare system. The IOM recommends, among other things, that a special effort be made to improve the public’s awareness of the problem.
The following provides helpful information about the “Speak Up” program, sponsored by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. The “Speak Up” program urges patients to get involved in their care. Such efforts to increase consumer awareness and involvement are supported by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This initiative provides simple advice on how you, as the patient, can make your care a positive experience. After all, research shows that patients who take part in decisions about their healthcare are more likely to have better outcomes.
Speak up if you have questions or concerns, and, if you don’t understand, ask again. It’s your body, and you have a right to know. Your health is too important to worry about being embarrassed if you don’t understand something that your doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional tells you.
- Don’t be afraid to ask about safety. If you’re having surgery, for example, ask the doctor to mark the area that is to be operated upon, so that there’s no confusion in the operating room.
- Don’t be afraid to tell the nurse or the doctor if you think you are about to receive the wrong medication. Don’t hesitate to tell the healthcare professional if you think he or she has confused you with another patient.
- Pay attention to the care you are receiving. Make sure you’re getting the right treatments and medications by the right healthcare professionals. Don’t assume anything.
- Tell your nurse or doctor if something doesn’t seem quite right.
- Expect healthcare workers to introduce themselves when they enter your room and look for their identification badges. A new mother, for example, should know the person to whom she is handing her baby. If you are unsure, ask.
- Notice whether your caregivers have washed their hands. Hand washing is the most important way to prevent the spread of infections. Don’t be afraid to gently remind a doctor or nurse to do this.
- Know what time of day you normally receive a medication. If it doesn’t happen, bring this to the attention of your nurse or doctor.
- Make sure your nurse or doctor confirms your identity. They should check your wristband or ask your name, before they give you any medication or treatment.
- Educate yourself about your condition. Make sure you understand your diagnosis, the medical tests you are undergoing and your treatment plan.
- Ask your doctor about his or her specialized training and experience. You should know what qualifies him or her to treat your illness (and be sure to ask the same questions of those physicians to whom he or she refers you).
- Gather information about your condition. Good sources include your doctor, your library, respected websites (see our Health Resource Library) and support groups.
- Write down important facts your doctor tells you. This will help you in looking for additional information later. And ask your doctor if he or she has any written information you can keep.
- Thoroughly read all medical forms and make sure you understand them before you sign anything. If you don’t understand, ask your doctor or nurse to explain them.
- Make sure you are familiar with the operation of any equipment that is being used in your care. If you will be using oxygen at home, do not smoke or allow anyone to smoke near you while oxygen is in use.
- Ask a trusted family member or friend to be your advocate.
For more information on patient safety, go to the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.