Patient Safety 101: Visiting the Hospital During a Pandemic

Going to the hospital has never been more nerve-racking due to the rising pandemic. Staying safe during your visit, however, does not have to be one of your worries. In light of Patient Safety Awareness Week — something which we should extend until further notice and practice throughout this terrifying period — below are steps you should take to feel safe and comfortable during your next trip to the doctor’s office.

Learn About the Hospitals in Your Area

Before an emergency or health crisis arises, put sufficient time and effort into researching the best hospitals in your city, which allows you to choose a venue with confidence. Compare each hospital’s patient safety measures, including cleanliness, infection rates, treatment success rates, and mortality rates. If you will be having surgery or choosing a hospital for childbirth, make it a point to understand who your surgeon or obstetrician will be, as well as what the pre-, during-, and post-operative rooms look like. Your safety and comfort matters, especially if you will be birthing a child.

Read online reviews and seek recommendations from your primary care provider, friends, or family members. Knowing how the hospital and its staff members function may help ease your worries during your stay.

Keep Your Hands Clean

If you will be staying for an extended period, ensure to bring disinfectants such as wet wipes, isopropyl alcohol, or antibacterial and antiviral hand sanitizers. You may even bring your own pillowcases and blankets if you prefer. Be cautious of the people and objects you may come in contact with at the hospital, especially during a viral pandemic. Use the disinfectants you brought with you, or better yet, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 30 seconds after coming into contact with others, touching various items, and before you eat. Never touch your face — especially your eyes, nose, and mouth — with dirty hands. Read Can Hand Washing Save Lives? for more information.

Wear a Mask

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), wearing a surgical mask if you are coughing or sneezing is vital. This is particularly true when visiting hospitals during a viral pandemic as it helps prevent an infected person from spreading his or her disease to those around them. In contrast, Live Science noted that only a specialized mask called an N95 respirator can protect against certain illnesses, such as the new coronavirus (COVID-19).

Keep Your Distance From Other Patients in the Hospital

“Social distancing” refers to avoiding close contact with other individuals to prevent contracting COVID-19 yourself and to reduce the chances of passing it on. According to UC San Francisco epidemiologists Jeff Martin and George Rutherford III, it is currently the most important factor we can control during this outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends maintaining a distance of six feet, which is allegedly as far as respiratory droplets can travel. Social distancing is most effective when you keep your hands clean, wear an N95 mask, and avoid touching your face.

As a patient, you have a significant role to play at each stage of your care. Hopefully, these tips encourage you to become more involved in your safety when visiting healthcare centers.