Patient Safety is Inseparable from Patient Engagement
March 8, 2013
I am a Florence Nightingale groupie. When I first read her short, direct, and pithy book, “Notes on Nursing,” Nightingale became my mentor in understanding the inherent role of the environment in caring for the ill.
I can be pithy, short, direct, urgent — and a bit sarcastic in expressing my passion. So, I fully identified and understood her zero-tolerance for even minor infractions on the dignity of patients.
She uses the same boldness in her book, “Notes on Hospitals,” which provides details on hospital construction. An example of Nightingale’s urgency in the face of fully understanding the risks patients face when merely entering a hospital is her unambiguous and profound dictum in her book. “It may seem a strange principle to enunciate as the very first requirement in a hospital that it should do the sick no harm.” What more needs to be said about patient safety?
Nightingale did not look at safety as a regulation, department, or “to do” list. Rather, she places safety at the existential core of institutional healthcare. The bottom line is that an unsafe hospital should not be a hospital and the sick and vulnerable should not be subject to such risks.
From the patient side, Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” is a great illustration of the primary role safety has in human growth and motivation for change. Basically, if we do not feel safe, we are not motivated or capable of seeking higher levels of participation in life (or health).
With this being National Patient Safety Awareness Week, it’s a good time to stop thinking of safety as separated from other obligations and objectives for patient outcomes and engagement. Safety is core; it is non-negotiable; it is so basic to patient care that it cannot be distinguished from what every patient and family member assumes to be their right.
So, going back to Nightingale, the “do the sick no harm” dictum applies to each of us.