‘Communication’ focus of campaign

Campaigns for hospital staff and the public often focus on physical things like hand hygiene, falls prevention, avoiding pressure sores, and the like.

But the focus of this year’s Patient Safety Week, which got underway on Sunday, is on the importance of good, clear communication between patients and medical staff.

Coordinated by the New Zealand Health Quality and Safety Commission, the catchphrase for this year’s campaign is “Let’s talk”. 

This week the commission launched a new patient safety card which is based on a resource developed in England and utilises the concept of an aeroplane’s inflight safety cards for passengers.

These cards remind patients and families in a visual way some of the simple steps they can take to help keep themselves safe during a hospital stay.

Chief medical adviser Dr Tom Watson says when it comes to patient safety and care, we should do unto others as we would have done to ourselves.

“This applies to any aspect of patient care, which we, as staff and individuals wouldn’t want to be subjected to, if patients ourselves, and shouldn’t therefore subject a patient to.”

The simple step of a staff member introducing themselves and explaining their role in that patient’s care can help avoid a patient feeling confused or establish a human bond.

Likewise, communication is about encouraging patients to feel they can ask questions or be involved in decisions about their care.

In times of stress, patients and families often remember staff who took the time to discuss things, and showed they care – which makes a huge difference and often avoids misunderstandings.

Healthcare can be complex and specialised, with lots of jargon and unfamiliar names for parts of the body, diseases and medications.

So presenting information in a way patients can understand is very important, says Waikato Hospital Services executive director Brett Paradine.

“By better involving patients and families/whānau in planning their care can add to patient safety and outcomes.

“We can help with that by encouraging people to find out more about their health conditions, to get ready for their next health care visit and to keep track of their medicines and health information.”

For more information visit the New Zealand Health Quality and Safety Commission’s website at: www.open.hqsc.govt.nz

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