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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Human Error in the Hospital

I have to admit that I have a fear of going in the hospital. When I was told I was going to be admitted, my heart began to race. I didn't want to leave my home, my son or my dog. But, I realized I needed to be there and receive the treatment necessary to help me become well.

I am very concerned about human error when in the hospital. I remember when my father was hospitalized, the nurse was about to administer the wrong medication and prep him for the wrong test. If we were not there, God knows what would have happened.

I did expereince a few errors that could have happened to me during my week stay in the hospital. By the way, I was wearing not only one, but two, ID bracelets. I became aware of all the medications by pill form and IV that I was to receive.

One morning at 6am a nurse came into my room with two needles in her hand and she was about to inject into my IV. WAIT! I questioned her immediately because I knew it wasn't time for my injection. I asked her who she was looking for. She never checked my ID bracelet. Turned out I wasn't the patient she wanted. She looked at me as if I did something wrong. I couldn't help but say...I think the ID's should be checked, don't you? She left looking digusted, but hey....she could have killed me!

Another day, a nurse was giving me pills about 2 hours after I ate dinner. I knew I had already taken those pills. I would have been double dosed.

Another morning, a lab tech came into my room telling me she needed to take blood. I questioned what the test was. Didn't sound like something for me and then I asked her who she was looking for. Again, I was the wrong patient.

My fear of human error was happening and it kept me very in tune to everything that concerned my care.

May I suggest that if you find yourself in the hospital or a loved one, make sure you get very involved in their care. You can not leave your life totally in the hands of others. You need to look after yourself.

Some Important tips:

Get involved in your health care. Ask questions, and make sure you understand the answers. Take part in every decision about your health care, because research shows the more involved a patient is, the better his or her results.

Bring into the hospital all of the medicines you take if you can. Make sure each one of your doctors knows all the prescription and over-the-counter medicines and dietary supplements you are taking.

Tell doctors about any allergies.

Choose a hospital that has experience with your condition. Research shows that patients tend to have better results when treated at hospital where their procedures are frequently performed.

If you are having surgery, make sure that you, your doctor, and your surgeon all agree and are clear on exactly what will be done. Operating on the wrong part of the body is rare, but it happens. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons urges its members to sign their initials directly on the site to be operated on before the surgery.

Patient advocacy! Ask a family member or friend to be at the hospital with you, and to be your advocate. Even if you think you don't need help now, you might need it later.

Ask all health care workers who have direct contact with you whether or not they have washed their hands. Hand washing prevents the spread of infections. A recent study found that when patients checked whether health care workers washed their hands, the workers washed their hands more often and used more soap.

Get the results of any test or procedure. If you do not get the results when expected, ask when you will get the news. Do not assume no news is good news. Ask questions!

The first step to preventing medication errors is to know exactly what your doctor is prescribing, how often you should take it, and at what dosage. If you don't understand something, you ASK. The doctors or nurses may get annoyed, but it is your right.

Ask for a list of all the medications you're supposed to be given, what they look like, and when you should get them. Then, when a nurse comes around to give you your medications, you know if they have it right.

Ask that the doctor, nurse or lab tech check your ID bracelet every time you're given a medicine.
It might be tough to notice mistakes when you're sick. Researchers who specialize in medical errors say it's very important to have someone with you in the hospital.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is shame YOU had to stay on top of things in the hospital. Good thing you did. My body is sensitive to most prescription drugs, and I make sure my doctor is aware of that too. Even when at a general practitioner, I have caution.

I had bronchitis recently, and was prescribed three medications, two were pills, the last an inhaler.....this one in the morning, this one at night, this one before food, this one after food, this one with a full glass of water, this one right before bed time. What!!!..In my condition, how could I possibly remember all that?

I had the doctor WRITE DOWN the schedule of when and how, what each one was for, what they were going to do to me, and were they compatible.

In general, medication instructions love to list the thousand side effects you may experience. Just watch any medication commercial - announcer talks a hundred miles an hour at the end.

Your doctor, IF YOU ASK, can give you a better idea of how YOUR body/mind will react.

Caution can take time, but it does not hurt one bit.

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