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Be aware of potential medical errors while in the hospital

Staying in the hospital can be quite scary for many patients and even for their families. When a patient's health is threatened by a medical mistake, victims are often scarred for life and instead of associating health care with healing many patients have a difficult time trusting anyone in the health care industry.

Studies have shown that most medical errors happen due to miscommunication between hospital staff workers. Communication errors and doctor errors usually happen when nurses change shifts during a hospital procedure and when doctors do not follow checklists intended to prevent errors and keep the patient safe. 

Many patients and family members say they feel intimidated by doctors and nurses, especially when they are in the hospital for a critical health issue. It can be very difficult for patients and their families to feel comfortable enough to ask questions or speak up when they are unsure of the treatment they are receiving. However, patient safety advocates say that it is important for patients and families to understand the medical care they are receiving, and if they have questions, ask now before it's too late.

Some patient safety advocates have started giving patients checklists to use during their hospital stay to make sure they understand the treatment they will receive as well as when to ask questions. Included on the checklist is to make sure that patients are turned every two hours to make sure they don't get bedsores or other infections. It also lists that hospital staff need to wash their hands to reduce the risk of infection between patients.

If patients notice any unsafe behaviors by their health care team, they should speak up. If they receive any poor treatment by staff after saying something, take the complaints to hospital administrators to keep all patients safe. While it is not up to the patient to try to prevent medical errors, patients can be aware of potential issues that may put their health and safety at risk.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Medical errors leave devastating impact on families, professionals," Blythe Bernhard, May 5, 2013

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