Posted 4th Nov 2015

Campaigns for hospital staff and public often focus on physical things like hand hygiene, falls prevention, avoiding pressure sores, but this year the focus is on the importance of communication.

“Let’s talk” is the catchphrase for this year’s Patient Safety Week, coordinated by the New Zealand Health Quality and Safety Commission. It emphasises the importance of good clear communication between patients and staff, which builds understanding and trust.

The simple step of a staff member introducing themselves and explaining their role in that patient’s care can help avoid a patient feeling confused and establish a human bond. Likewise, communication is about encouraging patients to feel they can ask questions or be involved in decisions about their care. In times of stress and anxiety, patients and their families will often remember those staff who took time to explain and discuss things with them, and showed they care – it makes a huge difference and often avoids misunderstandings.

Health care can be complex and specialised, with lots of jargon and unfamiliar names for parts of the body, diseases and medications. So presenting information in a way patients can understand is very important.

As part of Patient Safety Week the Health Quality & Safety Commission launched a new resource for hospitals to use – a patient safety card based on a resource developed in England, in turn based on the concept of the airline industry’s flight safety cards for passengers. These remind patients and families in a visual way, some of the simple steps they can take to help keep themselves safe during a hospital stay.

District health boards (DHBs) and other health providers around New Zealand are marking Patient Safety Week in a number of ways, and Waikato DHB is no exception. Displays of posters and patient information stands in hospitals, quality and a patient safety focused “grand round” for clinicians will feature during the week at Waikato DHB facilities, and many wards have jumped at the chance to try out the use of name labels and the new safety cards.

Waikato DHB’s commitment to improving patient safety is reflected in the following personal statements made by the DHB’s executive members:

When it comes to patient safety and care, we should do unto others as we would have done to ourselves. This applies to any aspect of patient care, which we, as staff and individuals wouldn’t want to be subjected to, if patients ourselves, and shouldn’t therefore subject a patient to.
Dr Tom Watson, Chief Medical Adviser

As nurses and midwives, every contact, every interaction, every conversation had with patients and families makes a difference. If that difference makes their experience a little more palatable and less stressful then your involvement in their care delivery has been worthwhile.
Sue Hayward, Director: Nursing and Midwifery

Involving patients and families/whānau more in planning their care can add to patient safety and outcomes. We can help with that by encouraging people to find out more about their health conditions, to get ready for their next health care visit and to keep track of their medicines and health information.
Brett Paradine, Executive Director Waikato Hospital Services

It's truly a privilege to care for others. You show respect for that privilege, your patients, and your profession when you talk with those you care for and their families who support them, in words that help them participate in their care.
Mark Spittal, Executive Director: Community & Clinical Support


Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of the work day we forget that patients and their whanau, are not used to being in hospital or clinic. What seems ordinary to us, is not to them. The memory of having my son ambulanced in to hospital when he was 3 years old, is still fresh …I heard little of what was being said to me by the doctors and nurses, and remembered even less a few hours later! If you have not had a chance to view “the empathy video”, I would encourage you to do so now.
Mo Neville, Director: Quality and Patient Safety

Pictured below are Karen Nixey and Moira O'Shea visit the patient safety stand at Meade Clinical Centre, Waikato DHB.