Speaking up about your safety in a hospital

A year ago I didn’t know what steps someone should take if they feel their safety has been endangered by the care received in a hospital. But now I know, and I am sharing this information with you.

During a hospital stay

First, voice your concern to the nurse or physician who is providing care. If you feel something is wrong, you need to speak up. If your concern is with a nurse, ask to speak with the nurse’s supervisor. If the nurse or physician will not address your concern, ask for the hospital’s patient advocate, patient safety representative, or risk manager. Large hospitals will have a team of people responsible for patient safety within the hospital. Smaller hospitals may have only a single risk manager. This person or team has the job of helping to keep you safe while you are in their hospital and to investigate situations in which safety has been compromised—so they need to hear your concern.

After you have left the hospital

Each hospital has a process for handling concerns and complaints. When possible, arrange for a face-to-face meeting. Be clear about what you want the hospital to know and any action you are asking them to take.

Contacting oversight agencies

If you have spoken with a hospital representative and you still feel your concern has not been adequately addressed, the next step is to file a complaint with one or more agencies.

If your concern is about a physician, contact the state medical board (see state directory). For Kansas, contact the Kansas Board of Healing Arts.

If your concern is about a nurse, contact the state board of nursing (see state directory). In Kansas, this is the Kansas State Board of Nursing.

If your concern is about the hospital itself, contact the state department of health (see state directory). In Kansas, this is the Department of Health and Environment. (They don’t have a form to fill out. You can either call 1-800-842-0078 or mail them a letter with details of your complaint.)

If your care was provided through Medicare, there are additional agencies that can investigate your concern. More information is provided by the federal government at this site. For Kansas, the Quality Improvement Organization that investigates complaints for Medicare is the Kansas Foundation for Medical Care.

If the healthcare organization is accredited by The Joint Commission, you can file a complaint at their website.

Learning more

You can learn more about speaking up about your healthcare experience at assertivepatient.org.

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