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Hospitals: How To Avoid Infection & Medical Error

Your Job: Be Vigilant. Speak Up.

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Be Vigilant

Rather than relying on other people who are very busy, you can be a major factor in making sure you do not become a victim of medical error. The way to do this is to be vigilant  and to speak up.

Being vigilant means being aware of why the person has approached you, being sure that you are both on the same page about what is to be done and why, and watching that the person follows safety procedures such as putting on fresh gloves before touching you or cleaning his or her hands with a super cleanser.

Being vigilant does not mean that you should be paranoid or fearful.

  • No one is out to get you. 
  • Hospitals and people who in the hospital are there to help.

However, the people who make up a medical staff are human. Humans make errors. This is what is to be guarded against. 

Speak Up

It can be difficult to speak up in general, much less in a hospital setting where you depend on the people you speak up to for your care. However, your health and possibly your life are at stake.

When speaking up, a spoonful of honey will catch more flies than a gallon of vinegar. For example, you may have the situation where it doesn't look like the person has disinfected his or her hands and will be touching you. Consider saying something like: "I know you're busy this morning, so I'm just reminding you to please disinfect your hands before doing the exam."

If you have a question about how to speak with doctors, see the Survivorship A to Z document about maximizing your time with a doctor. Also see our videos on the same subject. 

If you remain uncomfortable about speaking up, ask a family member, friend, or even a professional patient advocate to do it for you.

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