Patients Can Improve Hospital Care

Tara Carpenter-Kellett

Our staff are incredibly kind, well-educated, and dedicated to providing excellent healthcare, but being human, occasionally they make mistakes.  Accordingly, we try to design fool-proof systems – preventive maintenance, narcotics double-checks, automated systems, – and still, we aren’t perfect yet.  While we continue to strive to become error-free, there are many ways that patients and families can contribute to this work. 

When you or your family member becomes a patient

These are things that every patient should know:

  • If you have specific expectations or needs, please share them with your care team.
  • Educate yourself about your health conditions and treatments.  Your active participate in your own care can catch errors before they happen.
  • Feel comfortable asking questions whenever you don’t understand things. It should always be safe to ask questions.  If for some reason you feel unsafe, speak to another member of the care team, the manager, or the Patient Relations Officer.
  • Be especially vigilant at times of transitions (such as changing units, hospitals, or care providers, at shift changes, and when being discharged) as these are statistically higher-risk times.
  • Follow instructions (such as finishing prescriptions, booking follow-ups, doing dressing changes, etc.)

If things don’t go as expected

If you or your family member experience harm:

  • Speak-up and ask questions about what happened and why.
  • Ask how the incident will be reported.  We review and learn from these reports, so they are very important. Staff can complete an “incident report”. Anyone can trigger a review by writing to the hospital with concerns. Similarly, anyone can trigger a formal review of a serious and harmful event using this link:
  • Expect an apology and to be informed about next steps.
  • If you need it, ask for practical or emotional support to cope with the incident; if you feel you need more support than the unit staff can provide, speak to the Patient Relations Officer.
  • Share ideas, concerns, and suggestions; you have a unique and valuable perspective.

Other ways you can help to improve patient safety:

Even if you’ve had an uneventful or a positive experience, you can still help to make the system stronger:

  • Participate in training the next generation of care providers.  If your team asks to include a student in your appointment, welcome them and speak openly about your experience and feelings so they can learn from you.
  • Give us feedback by completing patient surveys if you receive one.
  • Reach out to the hospital with both compliments and constructive suggestions.
  • Volunteer to act as a patient representative on quality projects or the Patient Voice Committee.
  • Attend town halls when they are offered.

We remain committed to excellence.  We chose to work in healthcare because we wanted to help people.  As we work toward perfection, we warmly welcome our patients and families as important partners in making care safer. 

With files from

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