First, do no harm: Promoting patient safety every day

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Primum Non Nocere — A Latin phrase that means “First, do no harm.” This is a phrase learned early in health care training. It is meant to help remind health care providers that first and foremost, their job is to protect the patient from experiencing any harm while under their care. This concept seems strange to many people. Shouldn’t the focus be on healing the sick in order to help people live better lives?

These two concepts are not mutually exclusive. In order to help someone heal and recover from any illness or surgery, it is imperative that we focus on both doing what is right for the patient and ensuring that the patient goes through whatever treatment they are having without encountering any harm, such as an unanticipated fall or infection. This is why there is such a focus on reducing the number of harms that patients encounter throughout the health care industry.

This week, Wilson Medical Center joins other health care organizations to celebrate Patient Safety Awareness Week, not to only focus on safety this week, but to critically review how we have done in providing a safe environment for health care and what can we do together with our physicians, patients and families to continue our improvement. As I mentioned in this space more than a year ago, Wilson Medical Center has reduced the incidence of patient harms by more than 75 percent in the four years since we became a Duke LifePoint hospital. That means patients are experiencing far fewer harms while undergoing treatment for whatever condition brings them to the hospital. Reducing harms to this degree within such a relatively short time has taken a lot of work by a lot of people. And we continue to strive to push this number — the harm rate — to zero.

This further movement can only be done in collaboration with you, our community. Much like when you visit someone’s home, you may see things that they do not see since they are in the home every day. When you have the need for services at Wilson Medical Center, please do not be shy about telling us what we can do better as well as what we are doing well. Bringing to our attention questions, concerns and the good things help us know how we can better serve you in the future.

Please join me in celebrating Patient Safety Awareness Week together so that Wilson Medical Center, your hometown hospital, can continue down the road to zero patient harms. We have made great strides. I know together we can learn from each other and reach this goal.

Ron Stahl, MD, is the chief medical officer and Nora Finch, RN, is the patient safety/experience officer at Wilson Medical Center.