Celebrate National Patient Safety Week this March

Take time to highlight patient safety initiatives

The first week in March, patient education managers have an opportunity to promote patient safety by observing National Patient Safety Awareness Week.

This national observance was initiated in 2002 by the National Patient Safety Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in North Adams, MA. Its purpose was to raise awareness about the issue of patient safety among patients, families, and community members and to emphasize the importance of effective partnering among patients, families, and providers.

"The focus and rationale behind the themes over the years have been to encourage effective partnerships with patients and families. Last year our theme was 'Patient Safety: A Road Taken Together.' It resounded so well with people, we have made that the permanent theme of the week," says Diane Pinakiewicz, MBA, foundation president.

The week provides a time when hospitals, communities, practices, and corporations that work with the health care industry pause to celebrate some of the successes that have gone on in the field and create opportunities to bring people in to learn more about what is happening with patient safety.

During the 2008 observance, the NPSF will launch a new health literacy program as part of a global campaign.

"National Patient Safety Awareness Week is a time to reconfirm a commitment to this work but in partnership with patients and the community," says Pinakiewicz.

The work with patients and families is not so much about empowering them as it is about engaging them and providers to empower the relationship, she adds.

Pinakiewicz says the NPSF advises health care organizations to do some proactive community education about patient safety during the week.

"Focus on those things that we know to be helpful in minimizing opportunity for unanticipated events and errors," she advises.

One topic might be the importance of knowing and understanding the medications taken and why people should carry information about the prescriptions they take as well as a list of over-the-counter medications, herbal medicines, holistic treatments, and vitamin supplements.

Another issue is hand washing. People need education on why it is important and how to become more comfortable asking providers if they have washed their hands, says Pinakiewicz.

Also, people need to better understand why it is important for health care professionals to check a patient's identification frequently during their hospital stay. Often people become worried, not understanding that it is an important step in patient safety and can prevent such problems as giving the wrong medication to a patient, says Pinakiewicz.

"Part of the point for this week is to take the opportunity to convey to the public at large, your community members, and to your patients the commitment that your organization has to improving patient safety. The work that is going on that is helping to move us toward a better level of care delivery," says Pinakiewicz.

Too often people hear nothing about the progress in patient safety or the steps set in place to avoid errors. They only hear the occasional horror story, she explains.

The NPSF has a hospital-based program called "Stand Up for Patient Safety" and all hospitals that belong will receive a tool kit for National Patient Safety Week. It has posters, banners, and buttons as well as ideas to raise awareness about patient safety. In addition, there will be three initiatives that health care facilities can implement to engage people more on the issue of patient safety and educate them.

Those not involved in the program can order patient safety week items from the on-line store at www.npsf.org. The web site also has tip sheets for consumers.


For more information about National Patient Safety Week, or patient safety, contact:

  • Diane Pinakiewicz, MBS, president, National Patient Safety Foundation, 132 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, MA 01247. Phone: (413) 663-2000. Web site: www.npsf.org.