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Patient safety: It’s a family affair

Published on Monday, March 9, 2015

By: Ruth Cummins .

Published in News Stories on March 09, 2015

Did the nurse who just stopped by your hospital room wash her hands before she left?

Did you get the promised results of your blood tests, and were they explained to your satisfaction?

Keeping tabs on their own care is one way patients and their families can get involved in promoting safety and ensuring that the patient suffers no harm during his or her stay. It's part of the education message of Patient Safety Awareness Week, a March 8-14 national observance that focuses on the relationship between medical staff, patients and patient families.

The Medical Center always encourages its health-care providers to include patients and families in their own care, said Amber Arnold, patient safety officer. "They all play a role in delivering safe care and keeping patients free from harm," she said.


Communication and education are keys to ensuring everyone is aware of the best practices that will keep patients safe, Arnold said. This week's observance, sponsored by the National Patient Safety Foundation, is an opportunity for clinical staff to unite in keeping patients and those who care for them in a safe setting.

UMMC will put the spotlight on its commitment to patient safety and awareness of safety practices this week by providing educational information and useful tips to Medical Center staff and patients. Just a few examples:

  • Patients will find on their meal trays small cards that give them pointers on how to be involved in their own care.
  • Materials will be sent via email throughout the week to assist staff in their care of patients and families. The materials also are located on the Patient Safety website listed on the Intranet.
  • An informational table was set up last week in the highly trafficked area near the Adult Hospital business office where patients, families and employees could pick up educational materials on patient safety.

Employees can take part in a safety education webcast Thursday at noon in Classroom 7A in the research wing. They'll watch speakers from Kansas City, Mo.-based Children's Mercy Hospital who will share lessons they've learned through their history of family centered care and the value of partnering with patients and families.

The hospital's current patient safety education initiatives include giving each patient a seven-day care journal, Arnold said. "They can write down important information, such as where they parked to their most recent test results, to any questions they need to ask their nurse or doctor when they come by next," Arnold said. "It helps them keep up with their care during the time frame they're here."


Patient affairs advocate Allan Boteler works hard to get each new patient and their family education flyers and brochures detailing ways that they can practice safety and help head off instances of harm, such as falls, Arnold said. Patients and families also can watch educational videos on the television in their room. The video system is named TIGR, or Television Integrated Guided Response, and it includes 186 patient education videos on demand in both English and Spanish, said Joy Akanji, coordinator and chair of the TIGR patient education committee.

TIGR also is a key component of the Medical Center's fall prevention program, Akanji said. "This is a win-win system that allows patients to have an element of control in their care," she said. The videos not only promote safety, but increase patients' knowledge base of their own disease process so that they can be more empowered in their own care, she said.

"I am proud of accomplishments we have made in transparency and culture related to patient safety," Arnold said.  "It is evident by the increase in reports from our staff and the excellent care that they strive to provide each day.  I hope all of our staff will take some time during Patient Safety Awareness Week to learn more about patient safety science and practice in our organization."