World Patient Safety Day

Words by: Alejandro Olryd

Let’s face it. We’ve all done it. It’s our dirty little secret and we hope no one notices but we’ve all been there.

I’m talking about clumsiness with patients. You know, you stand up to get the monitor and trip on their feet, forget to strap them in properly, walk too fast while moving them on the stretcher… and a myriad of other things that every single one of us has done at some point of our careers (and if not, then just wait a few more years).

September 17th is World Patient Safety Day. “What is that?” you may ask.

In May 2019, the WHO passed a resolution that recognizes patient safety as a global health priority. Obviously the main concern of the WHO isn’t tripping over patients or walking too fast to get your patient into the Emergency Department. It’s more concerned on us as Healthcare Professionals not looking out for the safety of our patients. And that starts with us.

Each year, the WHO will select a different theme regarding Patient Safety and will address it with articles, benefits, talks and studies. For 2020, and it’s no surprise, the selected theme is “Health Worker Safety: A Priority for Patient Safety.”

The justification for this, as written in their website, is:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has unveiled the huge challenges and risks health workers are facing globally including health care associated infections, violence, stigma, psychological and emotional disturbances, illness and even death. Furthermore, working in stressful environments makes health workers more prone to errors which can lead to patient harm”(1)

Globally, 134 million adverse events contribute to 2.6 million deaths each year due to unsafe care. With more than 28,000 deaths per year in Canada, patient harm ranks third in mortality after cancer and heart disease.(2,3)

These numbers include hospital, home care and prehospital care incidents. The cited article does not divide the categories as such but with even a 1% ownership in premergency care, the numbers are daunting.

 

The examples I gave at the beginning may sound a bit absurd. I mean, tripping over a patients foot is not that bad, right? Unless the patient has a broken femur and you aggravate the injury causing a small tear on the femoral artery leading the patient to sever shock. Or while running towards the Emergency Department you flip over the stretcher with your patient who is strapped down and cause more injuries than they originally had.

And what of the cause for these errors of ours? Could it be simply that the attending healthcare worker was distracted? Why was he or she distracted? Not enough sleep? Too many hours on call? A violent or aggressive family member threatening to harm you if you don’t hurry up?

Part of this years theme on Patient Safety is the stressful environment which we often have to face. This stress can be induced by hundreds of factors, internal and external to us. And in turn, this stress can lead to us making small or large errors with our patient care.

Our health, both physical and psychological, is important in that ignoring it, or putting it in jeopardy, can lead to small accidents that can lead to grave consequences. It is important that we take care of ourselves first and foremost so that we can take care of our patients. We are no good to them if we can’t treat them properly because we can’t concentrate or remember the proper dosage for medications.

So on this World Patient Safety Day take a moment to analyze yourself and see what you can do to improve your health. It may be eating healthier or getting an extra hour of sleep at night; whatever you find, let’s focus on ourselves so that we can give the absolute best for our patients.

 

References:

  1. World Patient Safety Day campaign [Internet]. Who.int. 2020 [cited 14 September 2020]. Available from: https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-patient-safety-day/
  2. Crossing the global quality chasm. 1st ed. Washington; 2019.
  3. The Case for Investing in Patient Safety in Canada; 2017.