You can contribute to health care safety.
While you are in the hospital, many people will enter your room, from doctors and nurses to aides and orderlies. The following information will help make your hospital stay safe and comfortable.
You’re in Charge
Errors can occur during your hospital stay. They can involve medications, procedures or paperwork—for example, being given salt with a meal when you’re on a salt-free diet, or receiving someone else’s medical forms.
You can help prevent errors by taking charge of your care. Be sure to:
- stay informed about your medical condition
- know the details of your treatment plan
- understand the tests and procedures you will undergo
Your doctor can answer these questions. Take notes when you speak with your doctor, or have a trusted friend or family member take notes for you, so you can refer to them later. Also ask for any written information your doctor may be able to provide about your condition and/or treatments. Remember—you’re in charge.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask...
A number of people may enter your hospital room. Be sure to:
- Ask for the ID of everyone who comes into your room.
- Speak up if hospital staff don’t ask to check your ID.
- Ask if the person has washed their hands before they touch you.
- If you are told you need certain tests or procedures, ask why you need them, when they will happen, and how long it will be before you get the results.
Happy Birthday to You!
Wash your hands with soap and warm water for 15 to 20 seconds. That’s about the same amount of time that it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
While you’re in the hospital to get well, you should know that there is the possibility of developing an infection. The single most important thing you can do to help prevent infections is to wash your hands and make sure that everyone who touches you—including your doctors and nurses—wash their hands, too.
You, your family and friends should wash hands:
- after touching objects or surfaces in the hospital room
- before eating
No Soap? No Problem
Alcohol-based hand cleaners are as effective as soap and water in killing germs. To use, apply the cleaner to the palm of your hand and rub your hands together. Keep rubbing over all the surfaces of your fingers and hands until they are dry.
- after using the restroom
It is also important that your healthcare providers wash their hands with either soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand cleaner every time, both before and after they touch you. Healthcare providers know to practice hand hygiene, but sometimes they forget. You and your family should not be afraid or embarrassed to speak up and ask them to wash their hands.
Preventing Medication Errors
By taking part in your own care, you can help the members of your health care team avoid medication errors. Here’s how:
Be sure that all of your doctors know what medications you have been taking, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, herbal and vitamin supplements, natural remedies and recreational drugs.
Be sure that all of your doctors know of any allergies you may have—to medications, anesthesia, foods, latex products, etc.
When you are brought medications or IV fluids, ask the person to check to be sure you are the patient who is supposed to receive the medications. Show that person your ID bracelet to double-check. Remember--you play an important role in helping to reduce medication errors.
Know Your Meds
While you are hospitalized, your doctor may prescribe medications for you. Be sure that you understand exactly what they are and why they are being prescribed. Use this checklist to help you get the information you need from your doctor:
- What is the name of the medicine?
- What is its generic name?
- Why am I taking this medicine?
- What dose will I be taking?
- How often, and for how long?
- What are the possible side effects?
- Can I take this medicine while taking my other medications or dietary supplements?
- Are there any foods, drinks or activities that I should avoid while taking this medicine?
Patients often fall because they are on medications that make them dizzy, they are weak and unsteady due to illness or medical procedures, or because they’ve been sitting or lying down for too long. For your safety, please:
- Always call for assistance before getting out of bed.
- Wear properly-fitting shoes with nonskid soles.
- Keep the call button within easy reach.
- Have necessary items within reach, such as your glasses, tissues, the telephone, and anything else you need.
- When you get assistance, rise slowly from your bed or chair to prevent dizziness.
- Walk close to the wall and hold onto the handrail while in the bathroom.
DVT: Lower Your Risk
Deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when blood clots form in the legs and block circulation. The clots can lodge in the brain, heart or lungs, causing damage or even death. When you’re hospitalized and in bed with limited physical activity, your risk of DVT increases.
Ask your doctor about using compression boots or stockings and/or blood thinners to prevent DVT during your stay.
Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any of the following warning signs:
- A leg cramp or charley horse that gets worse
- Swelling and discoloration in your leg, upper arm or neck
- Unexplained shortness of breath
- Chest discomfort that gets worse when you breathe deeply or cough
- Light-headedness or blacking out