What Patients and Families Can Do
to Enhance Safety
As a patient, you can play an important role in working with your caregivers to enhance your safety. Things you and your family can do include:
- Take an active role in your treatment. Provide information to healthcare staff. Participate in all decisions about your treatment. Ask a trusted family member or friend to ask questions for you if necessary. Designate someone to be your advocate (spokesperson) to staff during your hospital stay.
- Wear your ID band at all times while you are in the hospital. Staff should check your ID band to verify your name and birth date before giving you any medication, before you have blood or before performing any procedure or test. (Outpatients may also be required to wear an ID band.)
- Ask anyone who comes in direct contact with you, “have you washed your hands?” In addition, washing your hands is the most important thing you can do to fight germs. Also have your visitors wash their hands before coming in contact with you.
- Healthcare members who handle your blood and other body fluids should wear gloves.
- For any treatment/procedure, ask the healthcare member which area or part of the body will be involved, and verify this with the healthcare member.
- Speak up if you have questions or concerns. It’s OK to ask more than once. Write down questions so you’ll remember them.
- Learn about your condition and treatments by asking your doctor and nurse, and use other reliable sources.
- Ask visitors who have an infection, even a cold, not to visit you.
- If you have unwanted visitors or something is disturbing you, call your nurse.
- Ask when and how you will get the results of tests and procedures. Ask what the results mean and what your options are.
- If you have considered preparing advance directives (power of attorney for health care, living will and financial power of attorney for health care), it’s a good idea to do this in advance of coming to the hospital. If you already have these documents, please bring the original version of each document with you when you come to the hospital.
- If you have any concerns about your safety when returning home, talk with your caregivers.
- Call your nurse if an alarm sounds on your medical equipment. Don’t allow visitors to touch the equipment. If you have a PCA (patient controlled analgesia) pump, you should be the only one to push the button to give you medication.
- Follow the instructions you have been given about getting out of bed and walking.
- If you are not able to be out of bed, ask to have your bedside table, telephone, call light and personal items within reach.
- Use your call light if you need help.
- Side rails are put up for your safety. Do not try to climb over them or around them.
- When you are getting out of bed, rise slowly and sit at the side of the bed before standing. Dangle your legs before you stand. Stand up slowly.
- If you use a cane or walker, keep it within reach.
- Keep a night light on at night.
- If you need to get up but feel weak, dizzy or lightheaded, use your call light to ask for help.
- If you are in the bathroom and need assistance or become weak, use the call light on the bathroom wall.
- Wear footwear with non-skid soles while walking.
- If you usually wear glasses or a hearing aid, be sure to wear them when you are walking.
- Make a list of your medications (prescription, over-the-counter, vitamins, herbal supplements, etc.) and bring it with you to the hospital. (Always carry the list with you and add/remove medications as they change.) Do not take any medications or herbal supplements you have brought from home without first checking with your doctor or nurse.
- Do not let anyone give you medications without asking your name and birth date or checking your hospital ID band first.
- Ask what the medication is and make sure it was ordered for you. If the medication doesn’t look like what you usually take, ask why.
- Tell your doctor or nurse about anything that worries you about your medications.
- Describe previous food or environmental allergies and what type of reaction you had.