Patient Safety
Sharing The Responsibility


Looking Up

Wash your hands, wear your seatbelt, and look both ways. These are just a few of the preventive measures we are taught as children to help keep us safe. We were taught these things often by a loved one who cared about improving our quality of life. We were taught to wear our seatbelt to provide safety in the car, to wash our hands to prevent spreading germs, and to look both ways to prevent being hit when crossing the street. Wishing safety for someone is an expression of love and care.

"It may seem a strange principle to enunciate as the very first requirement in a hospital is that it should do the sick no harm."
- Florence Nightingale -
Florence Nightingale, a pioneer of modern nursing said, “It may seem a strange principle to enunciate as the very first requirement in a hospital is that it should do the sick no harm.” Patient safety should be top priority. Patient safety is the foundation of high quality healthcare. Injuries, infections, and errors in hospitals are due to the complex healthcare systems we have today. Often a patient, or care taker is communicating with a doctor, nurse, pharmacist, and many other healthcare professionals during one hospital stay. With so many people and different factors involved, error is hard to avoid.

In 1990 the US Institute of Medicine (IOM) released the National Roundtable on Healthcare Quality. Through this they defined quality of care, and set standard tools of measurement to be used throughout the United States. Because of this, strategies have been implemented to minimize error in health care services. As a result, the quality of patient care has improved.

The IOM states that healthcare quality problems may be classified into 3 categories, underuse, overuse, and misuse. Underuse is the failure to provide a healthcare service when it would have produced a favorable outcome for a patient.Overuse occurs when a healthcare service is provided under circumstances in which its potential for harm exceeds the possible benefit. Misuse occurs when an appropriate service has been selected but a preventable complication occurs and the patient does not receive the full potential benefit of the service.

That being said, patient safety doesn’t fall solely on health care providers. Underuse, overuse, and misuse can all be prevented with help from patients. Patients have the responsibility to help ensure their own safety. Open communication is key to avoiding error. It is important to be open with your doctor and all those you may work with.

The following suggestions come from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality:

Make sure that your doctors know about every medication you are taking. Be prepared with the names of all your medications before going to an appointment.

Ask for information about your medications in terms that you can understand—both when prescribed and when you pick them up. Know if you have any allergies.

After time in the hospital it is appropriate to ask your doctor to explain how the treatment will go from that point on. It is important to know whether or not you should keep taking the medication you were taking before your hospital stay.

Speak up if you have questions or concerns. You have a right to ask any questions involved with your care.

Talking with medical professionals shouldn’t be intimidating. It is your right as well as your responsibility to ask questions regarding your health.

To find more suggestions and additional details on how you can help avoid medical errors visit 20 Tips To Help Prevent Medical Errors: Patient Fact Sheet created by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Patient safety is a continuous process. Both medical professionals and patients have an obligation to work towards the highest quality service. Learning about what we can do as patients will only advance the progress.Errors, injuries, accidents, and infections are a part of everyday life, but together we can continue to make patient safety a top priority.

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. 20 Tips to Help Prevent Medical Errors. Florence Nightingale.
Institute of Medicine. 1998. Statement on Quality of Care. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

It is your right as well as your responsibility to ask questions regarding your health.

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