News Release

March 1, 2005

Contact: Jane Shaskan, 860-679-4777

Communication for Patient Safety’s Sake

Dempsey Hospital Observes National Patient Safety Awareness Week

FARMINGTON, CONN. – “Focus on Patient Safety: Ask, Listen and Learn. Effective Communications: The Patient Safety Tool of Choice” is this year’s theme for National Patient Safety Awareness Week, March 6 through 12.
“Patient safety involves both health care workers and patients, each doing their part to improve overall patient safety. A key element of that is communication,” said Candace Pettigrew, patient safety coordinator at UConn Health Center’s John Dempsey Hospital. “Health care providers need to listen to their patients, speak to them in language they will understand, and encourage them to be engaged with those involved in their care,” Pettigrew said.

Patients need to do their part as well. “Medical information and instructions can often be difficult for patients to understand,” Pettigrew said. “They need to ask questions, as many times as it takes, so they fully understand how to best advance their own health care by being an active member of their health care team.”

Here is some important information patients need to communicate and understand:

  • Tell your doctor what you’re taking – all prescription and over-the-counter medications, vitamins, herbals, supplements, etc. To help patients keep track, a wallet-size personal medication information card is available for downloading at or call 860-679-7692 to request a free card by mail.
  • Tell your doctor about allergies and adverse reactions you may have experienced from medications.
  • Be sure you can read prescription orders your doctor writes and fully understand what the medications are for.
  • Double-check your prescription with the pharmacist; review the dosage and when and how to take the medication – before meals, after meals, with lots of water, daily, weekly, etc.
  • Understand possible adverse reactions from medications, and promptly notify your physician if you experience any symptoms.

Should you be hospitalized:

  • If the choice is yours, choose a hospital that specializes in the procedure or surgery you’re having.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask health care workers having direct contact with you, if they’ve washed their hands.
  • Upon discharge, make sure you clearly understand your home treatment plan and that you, your doctor and your surgeon are in agreement.

Some additional hints for patients:

  • One physician should be in overall charge of your care.
  • All health care providers involved in your care should know your health information.
  • Select an advocate to speak for you should that become if necessary.
  • Know the reason for a test or treatment and request to see all results.
  • Learn more about your condition and available treatments from your doctor, nurse or other reliable sources.

And always communicate, stressed Ms. Pettigrew. “Speak up with questions and concerns,” she said. “Many people are watching out for you, and one of those people should be you.”

UConn Health includes the schools of medicine and dental medicine, the UConn Medical Group, University Dentists, and John Dempsey Hospital. Home to Bioscience Connecticut, UConn Health pursues a mission of providing outstanding health care education in an environment of exemplary patient care, research and public service. More information about UConn Health is available at

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