Although we never hope for it, there will come a time when either you or a loved one will need to visit a hospital. For some, this is like visiting a foreign country with a language you are unfamiliar with. There are many feelings associated with this visit including fear, anxiety, concern and uncertainty, to name a few. Hospitals work tirelessly to keep patients informed and safe during their stay. But in order to achieve this, they need your help.
Here are some tips to be a safe patient:
1) Know your care team
Your care team consists of the health professionals caring for you during your stay. All staff should have an identification badge with a minimum of their first name listed. On the badge will be their discipline and the department in which they are employed. You should feel comfortable to ask the staff member to see their badge if it is not visibly worn above the waist or to introduce themselves to you during your care and treatment.
2) Help your healthcare team to know you
Upon admission, the healthcare team will place a band on your arm. It is important to spell your first and last name and state your birthdate to ensure safety during your care. This should be asked of you often during your care and if not, please ask the staff to check your armband with you.
It is important to have knowledge of your medical history. Hospital staff uses your medical and surgical history to plan your care. Included in this should be a current medication list; and most importantly, be prepared to list your drug and food allergies. This is vital information to keep you safe. Included in your medication list should be drugs prescribed by your physician and over-the-counter and herbal medications you may be taking.
3) Speak up
Feel free to talk to your healthcare team about your conditions. If you feel uncomfortable about a decision or treatment, it is a responsibility to your safety to speak up and ask questions before proceeding. Make sure you understand any and all forms you are asked to sign. If not offered to you, ask your healthcare team to explain to you the Advanced Directive, or Living Will and Durable Medical Power of Attorney; or if you own one, please bring copies with you to the hospital.
If you are not fluent in the English language and would like an interpreter, the staff can coordinate this request free of charge. Sometimes the staff may use an interpreter to ensure the information provided to you can be properly understood.
4) Ask questions about Medications
While in the hospital, your medications will be evaluated by your physician. Depending on the reason for your hospitalization, the physician may change your medications. It is the physician, nurse and/or clinical pharmacist’s responsibility to instruct and educate you on the new medication. For your safety, ask the care team for this information and any questions you may have regarding the new medications.
As the Center for Disease Control (CDC) states, “Clean hands save lives.” The hospital policy is for the healthcare team to utilize the foam soaps upon entering and leaving your room and wash hands when visibly soiled. To protect yourself from infection, ask your healthcare team to wash their hands or utilize the foam if they did not follow policy. This includes all staff that enters your room.
6) Prepare for Surgery
If you are entering the hospital for a surgical procedure, it is important and safe for you to follow instructions given by your healthcare provider. You should not eat food or drink certain liquids prior to your procedure. There are things you can do to prevent a surgical site infection. The team will give your specific instructions that must be followed for your safety. They may have you take certain medications prior to your procedure with small sips of water; only take what is instructed and if you take additional medications, it is important to share all information with your healthcare team.
You may attend a pre-operative appointment where you will receive education and information about your hospital stay. It is VERY important that you read and review all information. If you have questions about the information, call your physician.
7) Discharge information
Upon discharge from the hospital, the healthcare team will provide you with information to care for yourself at home. Depending on your reason for hospitalization, you may have follow-up care by a home health team. It is important to understand your instructions and, for your safety, make sure you receive answers to all your questions. There will be a phone number to call for questions and your healthcare team will perform a post discharge phone call to check on you. You can have questions answered during this follow-up call.
If it is instructed for you to follow-up with a physician, make sure you make the appointment. Your healthcare team will help you with this prior to your discharge if you prefer. The healthcare team’s goal is to provide you with the necessary care after discharge to keep you from having to return to the hospital. This will require you to perform all instructions given.
Each year errors happen. Patients who come to the hospital prepared to ask questions and collaborate with their healthcare team in their care are those who promote safety. This collaboration with your care team will help to ensure good outcomes and an excellent patient experience.
To learn more about Ochsner's Quality and Safety initiatives, click here.