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Patient Safety Tips

Your safety is central to every aspect of care within CentraCare Health. It is the top priority at all levels of our organization including physicians, management, volunteers and staff.

Medication Safety

Ask the doctor and pharmacist about the medicine. What is the name, benefits, and possible side effects or reactions with other medications or food/beverages?

  • What is it? Make sure you know the name and color of the medicine. Take medicine in well-lit areas.
  • What is it for? Make sure you know why the medicine is being taken.
  • How do I take it? Ask the doctor or pharmacist to explain how to take the medicine and how often it should be taken.
  • What should I look for? Ask what the results should be and possible reactions.  

Double-check your prescription.

Before you leave the pharmacy, check your medicine to make sure it was prepared for you. Speak up before you leave because pharmacies typically do not take back medicine once it has been purchased.

Discuss previous allergies or reactions.

Make sure the doctors, nurses and pharmacists, know about any allergies or reactions to drugs you or your family member might have.

Make a list.

Bring a list of your medications to every appointment. Include over-the-counter, herbal or dietary drugs. Throw away old medicines.

Keep medications out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.

More than 50% of people aged 12 and older who abuse prescription drugs got them from friends or family. 

Keeping medications secure can help prevent an accidental injury and help stop prescription medication abuse.

Controlled substances should be kept in a locked cabinet, safe or container.

Visit National Council on Patient Information and Education for more information.

At the Hospital or Clinic

Have someone with you.

Bring a family member or friend who knows your medical history and who can also ask questions. This can help to ensure the best care possible. Family members often provide the comfort and support needed to promote your return to good health.

Bring your list.

Bring a list of all the medicines you are taking when you go to the hospital. Bring a list and all of your medicines to every appointment.

Be active and speak up.

  • Share medical information. Write down and carry important medical information with you. Keep a list of medical history, office visits, and medication use. Medical information should include allergies and the names, addresses and phone numbers of important health care providers.
  • Make sure you understand the plan of treatment. Ask the nurse or doctor to explain any test results and the plan of treatment. If anything is not clear, speak up and ask questions.
  • Make sure you know what medicines should be taken. Make sure you know what has been ordered for your care. Ask questions if the medicines look different from before.
  • Wash hands. Patients, family members and caregivers should wash hands frequently to prevent the spread of infection.
  • Know who is in charge of care. Make sure that someone, such as your personal doctor, is in charge of the care for you or your family member. This is especially important in a hospital or in case of a complex illness.

Take notes.

Write down any questions about the patient’s condition, treatment, clinic visit or hospital stay. Take notes about what you learn from your caregiver. A the end of your visit to the clinic or hospital, ask for information in writing, including information about medicines, follow-up care, and your treatment plan.

Learn as much as you can.

It is up to you to learn as much as you can about the care and treatment. The most important way you can help to prevent medical errors is to be an active and informed member of the health care team. This means taking part in every health care decision.

Prepare for Surgery

Ask questions.

Prior to surgery, talk to the physician and nurse about any concerns.

Talk about the procedure.

Make sure that you, the doctor and surgeon all agree and are clear on exactly what is going to be done.

Mark the area.

Make sure the body area to be operated on is clearly marked.

Infection Prevention

Here are four easy things you can do to fight the spread of infection:

1. Clean your hands.

  • Use soap and warm water. Rub your hands really well for at least 15 seconds.
  • Or, if your hands do not look dirty, clean them with alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Rub the sanitizer all over your hands, especially under your nails and between your fingers, until your hands are dry.
  • Clean your hands before touching or eating food. Clean them after you use the bathroom, take out the trash, change a diaper, visit someone who is ill, or play with a pet.

2. Make sure your caregivers perform hand hygiene and wear gloves.

  • Doctors, nurses, dentists and other caregivers come into contact with lots of bacteria and viruses. So before they treat you, ask them if they’ve performed hand hygiene.
  • Your caregivers should wear clean gloves when they perform tasks such as taking throat cultures, pulling teeth, taking blood, touching wounds or body fluids. Don’t be afraid to gently remind them to wear gloves.

3. Cover your mouth and nose.

  • Many diseases are spread through sneezes and coughs. When you sneeze or cough, the germs can travel 3 feet or more! Cover your mouth and nose to prevent the spread of infection to others.
  • Use a tissue! Keep tissues handy at home, at work and in your pocket. Be sure to throw away used tissues and then clean your hands. If you don’t have a tissue, cover your mouth and nose with the bend of your elbow or hands. If you use your hands, wash them right away.

4. If you are sick, avoid close contact.

  • If you are sick, stay away from other people. Stay home if you have a fever. Call work or school and tell them you are sick.
  • When you go for medical treatment, call ahead and ask if there’s anything you can do to avoid infecting people in the waiting room.


One of our goals is to encourage and support open and honest communication with you, your family, and your health care team.

  • We encourage you, your family, and staff to speak up if there is a safety concern.
  • It is our policy to be open and honest with you and your family by informing you of the potential results of your care, including unexpected results.
  • We encourage you to designate a family spokesperson to help communication with your family and the health care team.
  • We encourage you to complete a satisfaction survey. We survey our patients to learn about their hospital stay experience. We review these surveys and make changes as a result of your comments.
  • We welcome the opportunity to discuss the care you receive. If you have comments, questions, or concerns, please contact us.

Speak Up

The Speak Up program urges patients to get involved in their care. Our patients are given information that provides simple advice on how they can make their care a positive experience.

The information includes the following suggestions:

Speak up if you have questions or concerns, and if you don’t understand, ask again. It’s your body and you have a right to know.

Pay attention to the care you are receiving. Make sure you’re getting the right treatments and medications by the right health care professionals. Don’t assume anything.

Educate yourself about your diagnosis, the medical tests you are undergoing, and your treatment plan.

Ask a trusted family member or friend to be your advocate.

Know what medications you take and why you take them. Medication errors are the most common health care mistakes.

Use a hospital, clinic, surgery center, or other type of health care organization that has undergone a rigorous on-site evaluation.

Participate in all decisions about your treatment. You are the center of the health care team.

More Resources

The National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) provides a information on a variety of patient safety-related topics. To learn more, please visit the NPSF web site.