‘Ask Me Three Questions’: Engaging Patients to Promote Safety

By Peggy McDaniel, BSN, RN

Next week, March 7–13, is Patient Safety Awareness Week. The National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) has sponsored Patient Safety Awareness Week since 2002 to help promote awareness of patient safety issues among hospital staff, patients, and communities. This year’s campaign focuses on engaging patients in theior own care, and it draws upon the NPSF template “Ask Me Three,” which encourages patients to ask these questions: 

  1. What is my main problem?
  2. What do I need to do?
  3. Why is it important for me to do this?

A recent article in Health Leaders Media shares a story about one facility that has seen a “radical improvement” in their safety culture over the past few years. Anne Marie Pizzi, RNC-OB, accreditation and safety specialist at St. Clare’s Health System in Denville, NJ, has engaged staff through a variety of educational competitions, all while staying within a very tight budget. Her team found that while staff would have appreciated a raise, small tokens of appreciation and recognition for a job well done were still effective in engaging them. 

I have read numerous posts and comments about health care reform by clinicians, and many have focused on noncompliant patients burdening the system. Nurses see patients every day that are collectively costing our system billions of dollars. Many of us feel we talk to our patients till we are “blue in the face” about changing their behavior, with little improvement in behaviors or outcomes.

Let’s not give up. There are many who will do what they must to improve their health—but only if they understand what is being asked of them. If we as caregivers can coach our patients to ask the three questions listed above consistently, and if we can answer them in a manner they can understand, we may engage them enough to make the changes they must to improve their health. 

What is your facility doing next week to promote Patient Safety Awareness Week? If you haven’t heard, ask!

(Peggy McDaniel writes regularly for this blog. She works as an infusion practice manager.)

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Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.

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