The Professional Patient Safety Tips


National Patient Safety Awareness Week was observed the beginning of this month. So, in the spirit of that week, here are 10 tips for keeping yourself safe with living with health conditions and being in and out of clinics and the medical systems.

1. Keep an up to date list of medications. Bring that list to appointments, especially appointments with new providers. Keep it on you in case of emergency. Many cell phone application stores have low cost or free apps where you can enter medication lists and other emergency information. Go through your med list at each appointment to check to make sure it’s accurate.

2. Ask questions. Ask about why labs and tests are being ordered, about your medications and side effects. If you’re hospitalized, ask what medications you are getting, ask about the procedures they’re doing. It’s your right to know. If you’re not sure about something, ask.

3. If you have cognitive issues, are acutely ill or are undergoing procedures that could cause some grogginess or loopiness, have trusted friends or relatives accompany you. You’ll have someone who can help you remember discharge instructions, help you remember questions you want to ask and help you remember what went on while you weren’t exactly with it.

4. Prevent infection. Obviously, we can all do our part with washing our hands, but don’t hesitate to ask medical staff to wash theirs or to change gloves during procedures.

5. Educate yourself. Learn what you can about your condition and your medications. Pharmacists are awesome if you have medication questions.

6. Educate others. Educating your friends and family on your illness helps them better advocate for if you need them too. They are also able to know what to do if there’s an emergency and what to tell emergency personnel.

7. Try to keep the same providers and pharmacies or stay within the same system. Many clinics and hospitals have health records online and are able to access your information from one clinic site to another. The same is true for pharmacy chains. It’s also best to go to one pharmacy as then all your medications are in the same place and they are able to better monitor for interactions.

8. If you have multiple providers, sign releases so that they can work together. Make sure they are aware of what the others are doing.

9. Know when to expect your lab results. If you don’t hear back on them, call and ask for them. Ask for paper copies of your labs. Some hospitals offer services where you can access your lab results online after they have been sent to the provider who ordered them.

10. Know your patient rights and responsibilities. Those can be found here.

Article written by Staff Writer, Agnes Reis

Agnes is a nursing student in Minnesota. She was diagnosed with CFIDs in 1999 followed by fibromyalgia the following year, along with lifelong allergies, asthma and migraines. She can be found at or @brigid22 on twitter, but cautions twitter followers that there’s a heavy dose of sports and nursing along with the spoons.

  • Noren Das

    Very interesting and informative article, I have my own blog on hospital administration Please check it out !!

  • Caroline

    I really like the patient safety logo you used and I would like to use it for a report I am doing related to patient safety. Where did you get it and could I have permission to use it? Thanks

  • I am a travel nurse, and I completely agree how important it is to make sure you always know exactly what medication you are taking and how it has helped or not helped. This will help your doctor better understand how they can help you.

  • Thanks for all the tips Agnes. Some I practice, others I hadn’t thought of. Also like the points made in your comments. Overall, a very helpful article.

  • Sandy

    As a pharmacist myself, I wholeheartedly agree with all of the suggestions so far! A few bits of advice I would add would be to get to know your pharmacist personally. On a first name basis! It is also good to know when the busiest hours of a pharmacy are and avoid going there during those times if at all possible. The hardest and busiest times for me and most other pharmacists are from 4:00pm to 7;30pm. This is Prime Time and is NOT the time to try to counsel with patients. People get off work and school and “run” by the pharmacy. Lines are long, bodies and minds are tired, tempers are short, bellies are hungry, etc etc. You get the picture! Try to schedule your visits from about 9:30am to 11:30am or 1:00pm till 3:30pm. In the normal pharmacy these are the less busy times and you will get much better advice and answers to your important questions. Make lists of your questions so none are forgotten. And please remember that just because no one is standing in front of that counter waiting that does not mean the pharmacist is not busy. Often times, our counters are loaded down with work to try to get done before the patient shows up. Keep questions pertinent, short and to the point. And please, never, never never utter the stupid line”What is taking so long? All you have to do is throw some pills in a bottle!” There is so much more to filling a prescription correctly than speed!
    I can’t work as a pharmacist anymore due to my health. Lupus, Sjogren’s disease, broken hips, back surgeries, fibro, joint pain and many other things have sidelined me. Patient safety is always #1 on both of my lists as a pharmacist And as a patient!

  • Very good suggestions. I’d like to mention to anyone on Medicare that you are allowed a free consultation with a pharmacist to go over all your medications to make sure there are no potential harmful interactions, that you are taking them properly and whether you can do anything that will help them work better such as taking them at a different time of day, with food, etc. I did this last week and highly recommend it.

    Also, because I have rotten brain fog during appointments, I type up something ahead of time to bring with me. It includes anything health-related that has come up since my last appointment, questions, and a reminder as to whether I need medication refills and which ones. That way, I don’t forget anything potentially important.

  • Storm

    Thanks for the tips and reminder.
    This is good advice for Any one, not just those with chronic ailments. It’s something Any one should do and keep in mind when going to the doctor. Whether it’s for a routine check up or for something wrong.

  • Very important to know! Thanks for the great article!

  • Great tips, Agnes! Thanks for sharing!