Patient Safety and Prevention

Preventing injury, illness or problems with treatment or equipment is an important part of providing quality health care. Included below are several areas of prevention information.

Preventing falls

Most falls occur when patients try to get out of bed on their own, many while trying to get to the bathroom. It is always safer to ask for help.

How can you prevent falls?

  • Ask for assistance from the nursing staff, especially at night.
  • Keep your call button near you.
  • Report any spills or objects that are on the floor.
  • Wear footwear with rubber soles to prevent slipping.
  • Make sure that you have adequate light to see. If you wear glasses, keep them within reach.
  • Some medications may cause you to frequent the bathroom more often. Work with the nursing staff to schedule time to use the bathroom every two hours. Ask for help before getting up or out of bed.
  • Some patients become confused or agitated while in the hospital. Occasionally, protective devices (such as side rails, safety mitts, or vests) may be needed to keep you safe.

Preventing infections

Germs and bacteria exist in every home, workplace, and hospital. When you are ill or have had surgery, you are more susceptible to infection.

How can you help minimize your risk of infection?

  • Remind nurses, therapists, or doctors to wash their hands or wear gloves before examining you.
  • Ask family members or friends who have colds or other respiratory symptoms not to visit you in the hospital.
  • Check with your doctor to see if you should have the flu or pneumonia vaccine to minimize your risk.
  • Some patients may be on "isolation" precautions to either protect them from getting infections or from spreading infection. If you are on these precautions, ask your doctor what you can do to help.


Handwashing is one of the best ways to prevent spreading illness.

When to clean your hands

  • Before and after using the toilet
  • Before and after you prepare food
  • Before and after you eat
  • After touching animals or animal waste
  • After you cough or sneeze
  • When your hands are dirty

How to clean your hands

There are two methods you can use to clean your hands:

  • Wash your hands:
    • Wet hands with warm water.
    • Apply soap and rub hands for 15 seconds.
    • Rinse.
    • Dry with a paper towel.
    • Use a towel to turn off faucet.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Preventing equipment problems

If you need special equipment to assist you, be sure you know how to use it properly. Understand exactly what the equipment is intended to do for you and for how long you will need it. Ask for detailed instructions for yourself and a family member.

Preventing treatment problems

  • It is important that health care providers know your identity. Check the information on your hospital ID band for accuracy. There may be more than one patient with the same name, so check your ID number and date of birth. If your ID band becomes illegible or is removed, request a new band. Whenever you are given medications, leave the unit for a test or procedure, or have blood drawn, offer your ID band to the staff for them to check as you state your name.
  • A well-informed patient can help doctors and nurses provide excellent care. The patient and family should know as much about treatment as they can. Ask questions about your diagnosis and treatment.
  • If you are having surgery make sure that you, your doctor and your surgeon agree and are clear on exactly what will be done. You will be asked to participate by marking the site/side intended to be operated on.

Patient safety websites

  • National Patient Safety Foundation: A resource for individuals and organizations committed to improving the safety of patients.
  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ): The AHRQ is a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the agency charged with supporting research designed to improve the quality of health care, reduce cost, improve safety, decrease medical errors, and broaden access to essential services.
  • Institute of Medicine (IOM): The mission of the IOM is to advance and disseminate scientific knowledge to improve human health. The IOM has published landmark reports addressing medical errors and health care quality.
  • Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP): The ISMP is a nonprofit organization that works closely with health care practitioners and institutions, regulatory agencies, professional organizations, and the pharmaceutical industry to provide education about adverse drug events and their prevention.
  • Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organization (JCAHO): JCAHO evaluates and accredits nearly 17,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States. JCAHO is the nation's predominant standards-setting and accrediting body in health care.