VA and DoD Meet for Patient Safety Awareness Week - Veterans Health Administration
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VA and DoD Meet for Patient Safety Awareness Week

surgical suite featuring nurse and surgeon with a patient

Each employee is urged to maintain a questioning attitude.

By Hans Petersen
Monday, March 9, 2015

This week, dozens of VA and Department of Defense (DoD) clinicians will meet to discuss how to make your hospital experience safer.

This is Patient Safety Awareness Week, but for these professionals, patient safety is critically important every day, every week. And the people who take care of you will spend this week learning more about how to make your stay in the hospital even safer.

According to Beth King, “The VA-DoD collaboration provides a forward-looking way to learn from each other to advance patient safety.” King is a program manager at the VA National Center for Patient Safety.

The presentations are technical and complex, but the bottom line is they all lead to a positive safety culture — for you, the Veteran.

Tamara Passut from the Fayetteville, N.C., VA Medical Center will talk about “Reducing Falls of Frequent Fallers.” Ever had that problem?

Commander Scott Wallace of the Naval Medical Center in San Diego will discuss “Continuous Respiratory Depression Monitoring for Adult Inpatients in a Non-Critical Care Setting.”

These are behind-the-curtain complicated medical areas that never quite reach the headlines. But each of them is very important to our Veteran patients … what seems technical to most people, are for these professionals, subjects they discuss in depth all the time to keep our Veterans safe … and healthy.

It’s all about patient safety.

A positive safety culture is one in which the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Based on a collective commitment to success and mutual trust, VA staff members are encouraged to improve teamwork and commu­nication.

Regardless of professional background, technical expertise, or position within an organization, each employee is urged to maintain a questioning attitude and be respon­sive to change.

The goal of a patient safety program is to prevent harm to patients by significantly improv­ing the probability that a desired pa­tient outcome can be achieved. This goal can only be accomplished by taking a systems approach to prob­lem solving, focusing on preven­tion, not punishment.

More than a decade ago, VA took the lead in developing pro­grams and initiatives — rooted in successful approaches developed by highly reliable organizations such as aviation — that have been shown to enhance a positive safety culture.

VA has shown that sys­tematic approaches to reporting, analyzing, and correcting patient care systems are essential to de­veloping a positive safety culture. Whether it is through the use of human factors engineering meth­ods, practice-based educational programs using high-fidelity simu­lators, or developing toolkits and cognitive aids, the goal has been the same: the reduction of harm to patients as a result of their care.

 VA staff members are encouraged to improve teamwork and commu­nication. 

Veterans: You can become part of the patient safety team

For our patient safety program to be truly effective, we need you to be fully informed and actively involved in your care. Here are some important Patient Safety Tips for Veterans.

What does your involvement in patient safety mean to you and your family?

  • It means we need you to provide detailed information about your condition.
  • It means that you should clearly understand your diagnosis and treatment plan and know what to expect.
  • It means keeping us informed of any changes in your condition, good or bad, such as an allergic reaction to a drug.
  • It means we want you to speak up when you have a question about any aspect of your care.

We want you to become a partner in the development of a safe care plan.

Stop, Look and Listen

Remember what our parents used to tell us before crossing the street? Before you proceed: “Stop, look and listen.” Our parents’ aim was to involve us in making the right decision. They didn’t want us to be harmed because we were caught off guard.

Patient safety can be that simple for you and your family.

  • Stop and learn the facts about your condition and your medications.
  • Look carefully through your care plan with us so that we all fully understand and concur on its course.
  • Listen closely to what you’ll need to do to continue your care plan at home.

Bottom line: As a well-informed patient, you can help us create a safer VA health care system.