Being Safe In the Hospital

Last week on my radio show, I had Karen Curtiss as my guest.  She is the founder of CampaignZero, a not- for-profit committed to helping families keep loved one’s safe in the hospital.  She has also written a book called,  Safe and Sound in the Hospital: Must have Checklists and Tools for Your Loved One’s Care.  She is an amazing advocate.

She started the organization after several harrowing experiences in the hospital, one which resulted in the death of her father.  His death was caused by a preventable hospital error.  She states, ” 1-3 patients hospital patients is accidentally harmed every year in U.S. hospital.”  Accidental harm or as Medicare has designated, Never Events include hospital acquired infections, blood clots, bed sores, falls and fractures, medication errors and surgical errors.  This is an astounding figure and everyone needs to be aware of the danger when being admitted to the hospital.

Our focus is to prevent the preventable.  We zero in on Never Events, which can be prevented with a little knowledge, a little common sense, and a lot more help for our medical teams.”

She stated she had no idea about the risk of Never Events when her father was in the hospital.  She had to essentially, hit the ground running with her siblings to understand what was happening.  Her experience helped to create checklists  which include, what to ask your doctor before surgery, what to bring to the hospital, how to look for problems, how to stay safe and many more.  Checklists are available at

Several days after my show, an elderly client of mine, fell and fractured a hip.  Surgery was required and with the elderly that usually meant a stay in the Critical Care Unit (ICU for surgery).  Because of my conversation with Karen, I was hyper vigilant.  I had the opportunity to watch as hands were not washed, areas not wiped down and fluids not encouraged.  I told the family to look at the checklists.  One of the daughters said she thought her parent would be safer in the CCU because there was a lower RN to patient ratio.  It was a logical thought but there is a higher risk statistically for an event in the CCU/ICU than on the floor.  More risk of a hospital acquired infection.  I spent time wiping down surfaces when I visited.

The question that many people ask me is, how do staff respond to a family advocating in this way.  It is always a balancing act.  It is important to put your loved one’s well being in the forefront, while being gracious, yet firm with all medical personnel.  Staff are overwhelmed and it doesn’t help to be nasty or confrontational.  Be firm and unyielding in your desire to get answers, keep environments clean and your loved one safe.  Although staff have the patient’s best interest at heart, it is the family who can keep their loved safe and get them home!

If you want to listen to the interior interview, here is the link.