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Patient Safety in the Hospital

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 4, 2022.

Why do I need to know about patient safety in the hospital?

Patient safety helps prevent injury, errors, and the spread of germs. You can help create a safe environment in the hospital by working together with healthcare providers.

How can I help control the spread of germs?

  • Wash your hands often. Good handwashing will help prevent the spread of germs. Wash your hands often, especially after you have gone to the bathroom and before you eat. Remind healthcare providers to wash their hands and wear gloves when they care for you, if needed.
  • Do not allow sick people to visit. Ask friends and family with colds or other infections not to visit. You may be on isolation precautions. These are rules that must be kept to help keep disease from spreading to you from other people. These rules also help keep germs from spreading from you to other people.
  • Ask about vaccines if you have diabetes, or heart, lung, kidney, or other major organ problems. You may need to have a flu or pneumonia vaccine.
  • Help keep your environment clean. Let healthcare providers know if your bedding, gown, or other linens are dirty. They will change the bed or give you a clean gown or towel. Wash all personal items that fall on the floor. Send personal clothes home to be washed in the washing machine.

How can I help prevent falls?

  • Wear safe clothing. Wear slippers with rubber soles to help prevent slipping. Wear robes and pajamas that do not drag on the floor. Ask for help dressing and undressing if you need it. Ask for help taking a bath or shower if you need it.
  • Keep the side rails up on your bed while you are lying in bed. This may be needed if you get confused at night or during the day. Keep the side rails up if you have tubes and lines, such as an IV line, or a catheter. The side rails may remind you to be careful when you get up and walk.
  • Ask for help when you get out of bed. The most common cause of falls in the hospital is when a person gets out of bed without help. If you are not able to get out of bed by yourself, use the call button. This will call a healthcare provider to help you get out of bed safely. Make sure the bed is in the lowest position so you can get out safely. Ask a healthcare provider to show you how to lower the bed.
  • Prepare a clear path. Know where your bathroom is and have a clear path to get there. Leave a night light on to make it easier to see while you move around your hospital room. If you wear glasses, wear them both in and out of bed. Ask a healthcare provider to clean up spills and move objects that may block your way. Ask for help walking with an IV pole or other equipment. Have someone stay near you if you are weak, sleepy, or cannot see well.

How can I improve communication with my healthcare providers?

  • Tell healthcare providers about your allergies. Tell healthcare providers if you are allergic to any drugs or foods, or have any other allergies.
  • Clearly understand your health condition. If you have any questions about your health problems or care, ask a healthcare provider. If a healthcare provider is not available, write down your questions to help you remember them. Ask for an interpreter. If you do not understand something, or feel uncomfortable about your care, tell the healthcare provider. You may also talk to a different healthcare provider about your condition and care.
  • Let healthcare providers know when you will be alone in your hospital room. If family or friends visit and help with your care, tell healthcare providers when they leave. This will let healthcare providers know that they should check on you more often.

How can I help decrease medication errors?

  • Always wear your identification (ID) band. Make sure all the information on your ID band is correct before you put it on. Do not remove your ID band, even if it feels uncomfortable. Ask your healthcare provider to loosen the band or make it more comfortable while you are in the hospital.
  • Ask healthcare providers about your medicines. Ask your healthcare provider about each medicine every time it is offered to you. Ask what it is, and why it is ordered for you. Learn when you should be given each medicine, and the color and shape of each pill. If a healthcare provider offers you a medicine that you do not know about, ask about it before you take it.
  • Do not take other medicines without asking your healthcare provider first. Do not bring in medicines from home unless your healthcare provider asks you to. These include other prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, herbs, or food supplements.
  • Tell healthcare providers if you think there are problems with the medicine you are taking. Tell your healthcare providers if you think a medicine is not helping or is causing side effects. Tell healthcare providers right away if you think you are having an allergic reaction to a medicine. Signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction include itching or hives, and swelling in your face or hands. You may also have swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, and trouble breathing.

What should I know about my treatment?

  • Talk to your healthcare provider about your treatments. Ask why the treatment is being given and what to expect after it is over. You can help healthcare providers know if there are problems during or after the treatment. If you have tubes or dressings, tell healthcare providers if they become loose or wet. Healthcare providers will check if IV tubes, catheters, or other tubes are still in the right place. They may need to change a loose or wet dressing, or replace a tube or drain.
  • Read and understand all consent forms for treatments before you sign them. Ask healthcare providers for more information about your treatment, procedure, or surgery if you need it. There also may be handouts available for you to read or videos for you to see.
  • If possible, have someone else with you when treatments are explained to you. Another person may hear or understand information differently than you do. They may also have other questions to ask.

What should I know about hospital equipment?

  • Lock all equipment wheels. Make sure the wheels on your wheelchair are locked before you sit in it or get up. Lock all bed wheels to keep the bed from sliding while you get in or out.
  • Ask healthcare providers about your equipment. Ask why each piece of equipment is attached to you, and how it should work. Ask about equipment alarms and what you should do if the alarm sounds. Ask healthcare providers what you can touch on the equipment without harming yourself or the equipment.

What should I do before I leave the hospital?

  • Clearly understand all discharge instructions. Ask for a telephone number for someone you can call with questions, or to get help. Before you leave the hospital, make sure you understand how to care for yourself at home. Ask about the activities you can and cannot do at home.
  • Get prescriptions filled as soon as possible. Arrange to have family members or friends help you if you cannot get the prescriptions yourself. Know what each medicine is for, how much to take, and how often you should take it. Ask for written information about your medicine. Ask your pharmacist for a medicine measuring spoon if you need to take liquid medicine. Do not use a kitchen spoon to measure liquid medicines.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.