Adventures in retirement- Simple steps to prevent medical errors

Written by admin. Posted in Health & Wellness, Senior Living

Published on October 05, 2016 with No Comments

I read recently that, according to The Washington Post, the third largest cause of death in the United States is medical errors.  Whether this is true or not, certainly medical errors, especially in the hospital, are a major concern.

So what can you, as a patient, do? Ask questions!  As a patient you have the right to know what is being done to you and what medications are being given to you.  Whenever an unfamiliar medication is administered to you, ask what it is and what it is for.  If it doesn’t make sense to you, question its use.  For example, in a recent hospital stay, a nurse came to give me a shot in the stomach.  I asked, “Why,” and she said it was for nausea.  I said, “I don’t have nausea, but you can give the shot if and when I have nausea.”  She was unhappy with me but said she would ask the doctor.  The doctor said I was right.

If you have ever had surgery you know that they repeatedly ask your name and date of birth and often what procedure you are in the hospital for.  If it involves a leg or arm, they may ask you to point to the arm or leg that is to be involved.  Why is that?  Well, if the chart says it is the right leg, does that mean your right leg or the leg to the right of the nurse or doctor as they look at you?  It makes a big difference.  It is not silly.  Everyone involved with your surgery must know exactly what is being done and to what part of your body.  Horrible mistakes have occasionally been made.  If the medical people don’t ask, make sure you tell them what you expect to have happen.

I’m told that many patients get sick while in the hospital.  Every effort is made by employees to make sure that everything is sanitary.  However, sometimes hospital employees make mistakes.  It is a good idea to ask someone who is doing something to you, whether administering medication or taking your blood pressure, if they have washed their hands or used anti-bacteriological hand gel.

The following are some of the most common medical errors in the U.S.  Some of them are unavoidable.  For instance, an error during surgery, delay in treatment, and failure to act on test results are hard for a patient to correct.  However, if you know what precautions are to be taken, you can ask the medical staff if they have acted on them.  Inadequate monitoring after a procedure can be corrected if you know how often someone is supposed to check on you and you remind them.  Failure to act on test results can be avoided if you ask what the test results show and what should be done about it.  Inadequate patient preparation before a procedure or improper medication dosage can be avoided if you know what is supposed to happen and the staff doesn’t do it.

Always remember to take responsibility for making sure the doctors, nurses and other staff people are doing the right things.  Make sure you understand what they are doing and why.  But, by all means be cooperative and polite.  You and the medical staff all have the same goal—to help you get well as soon as possible.  Be a team member in the medical process.

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