Keeping you safe in hospital
21 Nov 2016
Our goal is to provide our patients with the safest possible care. Health care in Australia is among the best and safest in the world, but there are still risks when spending time in hospital. They include the risk of infection, a fall or a pressure injury (bedsore).
Find out how we keep you safe during your hospital stay:
- preventing infection – clean hands
- medication safety
- patient identification
- preventing falls
- avoiding pressure injuries
- reducing risk of blood clots.
Helping us to keep you safe
To help keep safe in hospital you and your family should:
- speak up – if you have questions or concerns or if you've noticed an unexpected change in your condition
- get involved – join the discussions and decision making about your care
- be aware – understand the plans for your care, any test results and other important information. If you don't understand something, ask a staff member to explain it to you.
If you have any concerns about the quality or safety of your care, speak with the nurse or doctor looking after you. You can also talk with the nursing unit manager, the department head or the patient liaison officer.
The best way to prevent infection is to wash your hands often and well. This also includes anyone who comes to visit you and all of the staff looking after you.
Use soap, liquid hand rub or hand wipes to keep your hands clean.
Always clean your hands and ask others to clean their hands:
- when entering and leaving your hospital room
- before and after eating, touching food or feeding a patient
- after using the bathroom after sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose or wiping someone's nose.
Other important ways to help prevent infection include:
- not touching bandages, dressings or drips
- telling a staff member immediately if your intravenous lines, tubes or drains become red, swollen or painful
- asking staff if they have cleaned their hands – this is especially important before they touch your wound or intravenous drip. Our staff will not be offended if you ask
- asking your family, friends or carers not to visit if they are unwell.
Medication is an important part of your treatment. When you come to hospital, we will ask you about the medicines you take. Please tell us if you are using:
- tablets from a pharmacist or supermarket
- liquid medicine, e.g. cough syrup
- natural therapies such as herbs and tinctures
- vitamin supplements
- medicated creams
- eye drops.
You can help ensure safe medication use by:
- bringing all of your medicines to hospital with you
- keeping an up-to-date list of your medicines and showing it to our staff when you come to hospital
- letting the staff know if you have had any allergies or bad reactions to medicines in the past
- knowing the name of each of your medicines, what it is for, how it should be taken and any side effects. This is especially important for any new medications
- asking what medicines you're receiving and why ensuring you receive an updated list of medicines with information about each – what it is for, how to take it and any side effects to look out for before you go home
- understanding which other medicines, foods or drinks to avoid when taking the medicine.
You will be given an identification band when you're admitted to hospital. Staff may refer to it as an 'ID band' or a 'wrist band'. It will include your name and date of birth, and be placed on your wrist or leg.
- make sure the information on the ID band is correct
- check that you have a red ID band if you have any allergies
- wear your ID band at all times.
- Staff should check your ID band before every test or procedure and before giving you any medication. They will also ask you what your name is and other details, to make sure that the right patient is getting the right treatment every time.
All our hospital staff should be wearing an identification badge. If you can't see their badge, or you're not sure who someone is, please ask.
Falls are the most common cause of injury in hospital and can delay your recovery. Falling over is more likely in hospital because you're in an unfamiliar environment and may be physically weaker than usual.
It's important that you, your family and staff all work together to reduce the risk of falls by:
- making sure you can reach the call bell beside your bed
- using the call bell to ask for help whenever you need it
- calling for help as soon as you can. We will try to answer it immediately but if the ward is busy, it may take a few minutes before a nurse can get to you
- wearing supportive, flat, non-slip shoes or slippers
- bringing your walking frame or stick, glasses or hearing aids to hospital and keeping them close to you
- turning the light on so you can see before getting out of bed
- walking and staying active when family, friends and staff are there to help you
- listening to the advice and recommendations of staff – recovering from illness or surgery takes time, and you might need more help with walking and getting to the bathroom than you realise.
How family and friends can help to prevent falls
If a patient is confused, family members and visitors can help by staying with them as much as possible and letting staff know how to reduce their confusion, if possible. It is also a good idea to let a staff member know when you leave so that they can check on the patient regularly.
Preventing pressure injuries
A pressure injury, also known as a bedsore or ulcer, can form when you sit or lie in the same position for a long time. The risk of a pressure injury increases if you have to stay in bed, have poor circulation or you're not eating well.
A pressure injury can look like a reddened or blistered area on the skin. Bony parts of the body like the heels, tailbone, toes and back of your head are at most risk of a pressure injury.
To help prevent a pressure injury you can:
- keep moving, as much as it's safe to do so
- change your sitting or lying position as often as you can
- look after your skin and tell a staff member if you think it looks or feels different
- eat a balanced, healthy diet.
We prepare a pressure injury management plan for every patient who will be staying overnight in hospital. Ask your nurse to explain the plan to you.
Reducing the risk of blood clots
Medication, surgery or being confined to bed can increase your risk of developing a blood clot in your legs or lungs. We will assess your risk of developing a blood clot, but please feel free to ask your nurse or doctor about your level of risk.
To reduce the risk of developing a clot:
- take any tablets or injections that your doctor prescribes
- keep your compression stockings on avoid sitting or lying in bed for long periods if possible
- walk as often as the staff looking after you recommend
- ask what to do to avoid the risk of a blood clot when you go home.