Friday, March 26, 2010

Patient Safety?

Patient Safety For All

How do you tell a mom whose child is strong and violent that she must also remind the healthcare providers to wash their hands? How do you tell a mom whose child is scared of loud noises, bright lights and is nonverbal that she must also make sure her child is cared for safely in the hospital? Now tell a parent who can’t control their child’s outbursts that they will have to sit in a waiting room in a doctor’s office with other “normal” children and control her own. These are some of the conversations I had this week with the people of local community organizations learning about patient safety.

Many people are avoiding the healthcare system because of the problems they see going into it.

How do you tell a young woman who doesn’t speak English that she can ask for a second opinion when she can’t even explain what the problem is to the doctor? A woman shares the story of how, when she first came to this country and didn’t speak English, she struggled with the nurses aid in the hospital who made her get up, even though she was in terrible pain. The nurse’s aid didn’t understand how much pain she was in and the wound from her abdominal surgery opened causing severe problems to the patient.

A woman, who doesn’t speak English, tells me, through a translator that she had a lot of pain. She could only get an appointment for three months later. She had a urinary tract infection and was pregnant. The infection spread and they took the baby. She said she felt the baby was alive but no one understood her. Through her sobs she told the translator that she couldn’t make herself understood the urgency of her pain. She still has kidney problems from neglecting the infection.

These are just some of the stories I am hearing about our medical system as it relates to patient’s safety. Focus group after focus group I am learning more than I can possibly teach these people who only want what we all want, safe, quality healthcare. Story after story I am informed of how communication or lack of training keeps patients and providers from focusing on the patient’s individual needs.

Whether disabled, lack of language skills or any number of reasons patients don’t seek care, we need to know that we, as a nation must focus in on the individual needs of the patients before our whole system collapses.

We all want and need affordable healthcare but if the words safety, and quality aren’t part of the dialogue, the costs will rise worse than we can ever imagine and everyone will suffer.

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