By Douglas H. Stutz, Naval Hospital Bremerton Public Affairs

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BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) -- There was rough shoals and choppy waters to traverse as patients, staff, and visitors at Naval Hospital Bremerton (NHB) took part in Patient Safety Awareness Week March 3 to 8.

The theme this year was 'Navigate Your Health in Safety' highlighted by an elaborate nautical display on NHB's Quarterdeck, featuring 2014 National Patient Safety Goals (NPSG) exhibited in a decidedly colorful navigational format.

"The foundation of patient safety can be found in the Hippocratic Oath - first do no harm. In our modern world, we have 21st century diagnostic machines, advanced medications and treatments and the ability to treat and cure a wide range of diseases. With all that complexity, there are risks. The principles of developing a culture of a patient safety helps us manage complex treatments by putting our patients first. Patient safety helps us build safeguards that ensure that we are safely delivering the highest quality care," said Capt. Christopher Quarles, NHB commanding officer.

According to Lt. Cmdr. Susan Toyama, Quality Management department head, Patient Safety Awareness Week has been in existence since 2002 and is an annual NPSF-led education and awareness campaign for healthcare safety. The goal is two-fold - to raise public awareness about the work being done to improve safety to patients and to emphasize to patients the importance of being partners in their care by directly involving them as part of the healthcare team.

"It is felt that if there is better communication among patients, providers, families and communities it is hopeful that there will be a decrease in health care errors," stated Toyama, adding that Patient Safety Manager Mayda Schaefer and assistant Mondee Norton must be applauded for the creativeness and thinking that went into the display.

The theme and reasoning for the theme is set well in advance by the NPSF, actively promoted by Navy Medicine, and left up to each military treatment facility to find a way to display that theme and message.

"With this year's "Navigate Your Health ... Safely" theme, Ms. Schaefer and Ms. Norton put together the Quarterdeck display to match the theme. Navigating is showed by the boat with the blue stream and the items you see along to river path - snake and alligator are indicative of safety hazards, and the good catch/speak up for safety is indicated by the Fish," said Toyama.

National Patient Safety Week provided a perfect opportunity to get command leadership, staff members and patients to interact, focus and address key salient points in a new manner.

"What is gratifying about National Patient Safety Week is talking to the patients and staff who stop to read and look at the display. That's what it's all about is educating and raising awareness. The display helps to draw in patients and staff members, who are also healthcare consumers, so they will read, think and learn," Toyama said, citing that along with Patient Safety Week is also the Patient Safety Recognition Program now in full motion, where staff members are receiving accolades for speaking up, documenting near misses and taking part as being delegates for Patient Safety.

Some of the rough shoals and choppy water hazards that staff members and beneficiaries need to handle include 'Falls,' which are a common cause of injury, both within and outside of a health care setting. It is estimated that more than one-third of adults over 65 fall each year.

Injuries that result from falls can include fractures, bleeding and sometimes even death. Patients may be at increased risk of falls if: they have impaired memory; they have muscle weakness; they are older than 60; they use a cane or walker; and they are on certain medication.

"Falls are taken very seriously at NHB and many steps are taken to reduce the chance of falling," said Toyama.

Diagnostic errors are another patient safety awareness hazard to negotiate. A diagnostic error is a diagnosis that has been either "wrong, missed, or unintentionally delayed." A (no fault) error may happen when there are masked or unusual symptoms of a disease, or when a patient has not fully cooperated in care. A diagnostic error may also result from system-related problems, such as equipment failure or flaws in communication. A wrong diagnosis may also happen when the clinician relies too much on common symptoms, without looking further into what may be causing them.

Patient Safety is also about awareness of wrong site surgery, which is when an operation is done on a wrong part of the body or even on the wrong person. It can also refer a wrong surgery being performed. Wrong-site surgery is rare and preventable, but it can still happen. There is Universal Protocol with important prevention steps such as conducting a preprocedure verification process; marking the procedure site; and conducting a time-out before the procedure is performed, all steps for preventing wrong site, wrong procedure and wrong person surgery as part of the National Patient Safety Goals.

There are medication errors that happen when a patient receives the wrong medication, or when they receive the right medication but in the wrong dose or manner. Unfortunately, medication errors are extremely common. Medication errors harm an estimated 1.5 million Americans each year, resulting in upward of $3.5 billion in extra medical costs. Improving the safety of using medications is continually stressed at NHB and is a current National Patient Safety goal.

Another Patient Safety goal is awareness of a health care-acquired infection (HAI), which is an infection that a person can get while being treated for a medical condition. This can occur in the hospital or even in the home. An infection is considered to be health care-acquired when it occurs after treatment begins. In the United States, one out of 20 hospitalized patients contracted an HAI. The three most common HAI types are: 1) catheter-related bloodstream infections; 2) hospital-acquired pneumonia; and 3) surgical site infections.

The requirements for handling such goals as previously listed are decided upon from a "pool" of recommendations as part of patient Safety Awareness Week. Each year, the previous goals are evaluated by a panel of widely recognized patient safety experts, called the Sentinel Event Advisory Group. New recommendations are made and the goals are updated or change. The one new goal added for 2014 is 'Reduce the harm associated with clinical alarm systems."

Other goals are; improving the accuracy of patient identification; improving the effectiveness of communication among caregivers; improving the safety of using medications and; identifying safety risks inherent in its patient population.

"Although we don't necessarily talk about patient safety every day, it is what we do every day. The quarterdeck exhibit arranged by our Quality Management staff really reminds us that our patient safety is an ongoing continued process that all of us must continually navigate for their safe health care," Quarles said.

But such an event wouldn't be complete without handy tips from Infection Control. According to Tom Shirk, Infection Control Division coordinator, household bacteria hotspots that most people take for granted yet can make someone very sick are fridge handles; toothbrush holder; countertops; sponges; cutting boards; and television remotes.

Even carrying out a simply task like going to the grocery store over lunch has potential risks to patient safety. Shopping carts have an average of 860,000 germs per square inch. Shirk highly recommends to use one of the disinfectant wipes provided at many grocery stores as well as hand sanitizer.

This proves that patient safety awareness not only takes place at the command and home, but can also be applicable in someplace in between, such as in an innocuous marketplace.

For more news from Naval Hospital Bremerton, visit www.navy.mil/local/nhb/.

News Source : By Douglas H. Stutz, Naval Hospital Bremerton Public Affairs

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