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How to Protect Yourself from Hospital Errors

Published on Jun 4, 2014 at 8:27 am in Medical Malpractice.

In an earlier blog, I reviewed a Consumer Reports article highlighting the continued problem of patient safety in U.S. hospitals. New data shows that up to 440,000 patients die each year after suffering a medical error in a hospital.

How can you protect yourself the next time you’re admitted to a hospital? AARP lists some tips on keeping safe in hospitals on its web site. Their recommendations include:

  • Get to know your nurses and aides – Anyone who has stayed overnight at a hospital knows that in-between the brief moments that doctors make their rounds, it’s the nurses and aides that are in charge of your care. Nurses coordinate your daily care plan and can be your ally if you communicate with them about your concerns and needs. The aides address many of your personal-care needs and can be key to helping you stay comfortable.

AARP stresses that patients should not hesitate to ask for help; they also have a useful tip: get the direct phone number for the nurses’ station in case you ring the call bell and it is not answered when you really need someone.

  • Get to know your doctor’s and nurses’ names – And remind them of your name, as well. This can discourage them from treating you as an anonymous patient. They are busy and treat many patients, but using their name and yours can help them see you more fully as a real person;
  • Keep a notebook and pen at your bedside – Keep notes of key statements from your doctors and any of your symptoms.
  • Know your medication schedule – Keep a list of all meds prescribed, and their purpose. Know the dosage and frequency they are supposed to be given. Doctors may come in the middle of the night and prescribe something you don’t understand – don’t be afraid to ask the nurse to explain each drug to you and why you’re taking it, and be sure to follow-up with your doctor on his/her next rounds.

Experts say the most important thing you can do to protect your safety is to stay involved in your care. Ask questions; research the drugs and surgeries being recommended. Speak up; medical personnel do make mistakes. If you see something that doesn’t look right, it might not be – don’t be afraid to speak up.