New Campaign Urges Patients to Speak Up for Safer Surgery


As surgical infections and medical errors continue to receive attention and scrutiny in the U.S., patients are becoming more involved than ever before in the decisions that affect their care. To help fill the need for more patient education, Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc. has announced a new initiative aimed at empowering patients to take ownership of their healthcare by arming themselves with information and knowing what questions to ask before surgery.

"More informed patients are more positive patients and have better outcomes," said Sheila Allen, RN, BSN, CNOR, CRNFA, recent past-president of the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN), and a national spokesperson for the Smarter Patient Campaign. "Unfortunately, many patients do not get the information they need - either because they are afraid, or because they do not know what questions to ask. The Smarter Patient Campaign is a great way to encourage patients to take ownership, and become active partners in their medical care."

"This campaign provides critical information about surgery and other procedures that many patients simply do not know," said Terrence Fullum, MD, FACS, Chairman, Department of Surgery, Director, Advanced Laparoscopic Surgery, Providence Hospital, Washington, D.C., and a national spokesperson for the Smarter Patient Campaign. "Safe, successful surgery involves a team effort and patients themselves play an important role, right alongside their surgeons and nurses. Smart patients who ask questions keep everyone on their toes."

The campaign offers patients important advice about things they should know before surgery - but may not know to ask. Here are five important questions that every patient should ask before surgery:

1. Are there other treatment options for my condition? Your surgeon should be able to tell you what all of your treatment options are, and why he or she is recommending this particular procedure. For many procedures, technology and advances in surgery have moved beyond traditional open surgery to the use of less invasive means. Minimally invasive alternatives may result in less pain, scarring and recovery time for the patient. Ask your surgeon whether there are other ways to treat your condition.

2. Will a registered nurse be present in the OR during my surgery? The role of a registered professional nurse in the operating room is an important part of healthcare. Every patient should ask whether an RN will be present in the operating room throughout the duration of their surgery.

3. Will reprocessed disposable instruments be used in my surgery? Some hospitals reprocess and reuse disposable instruments on multiple patients as a way to save money, even though they were manufactured for one patient only. Many healthcare professionals are uncomfortable with this practice. Every patient has the right to insist that only new instruments are used during their surgery.

4. Am I receiving the right medication? Unfortunately, medication errors do happen. Make sure your physician knows about all of the medicines you are taking, including over-the-counter drugs, herbs and supplements. And ask your doctor or nurse what the medication they are giving you is for and what it's called. Make sure your doctor or nurse is checking the five rights before they give you medication: the right patient, the right medication, the right delivery route, and the right dose, at the right time.

5. How will the surgeon verify he or she is performing the right surgery on the right place on my body? Wrong-site surgery accounts for more than one-third of undesirable events in ambulatory surgery centers, and nearly one-fifth of undesirable events in the hospital setting according to the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. There are steps patients can take to make sure this does not happen to them. Ask the operating surgeon to mark the area that is to be operated upon with his or her initials on the day of surgery.

The Smarter Patient Campaign also provides general information about preparing for surgery, choosing a surgeon, questions to ask, and what to expect during recovery. The campaign offers an informational guide for patients, as well as information for clinicians. The campaign urges healthcare professionals to "Arm Them With More Than Just a Hospital ID Bracelet." The guides are being distributed to healthcare providers, and are available on the Internet at:

An advisory board has been established to provide counsel on the direction and elements of the Smarter Patient Campaign. The five members of the Smarter Patient advisory board bring diverse backgrounds in surgery, nursing, healthcare management, and patient advocacy. They are:

-- Sheila Allen, RN, BSN, CNOR, CRNFA, retired, past-president of AORN.

-- Terrence Fullum, MD, FACS, Director, Advanced Laparoscopic Surgery, Providence Hospital, Washington, D.C.

-- Dean Andrea Lindell, DNSc, RN, Dean of the College of Nursing, University of Cincinnati.

-- Jim Connor, Director of Nursing Finance, All Children's Hospital, St. Petersburg, Fla.

-- Randy Swatzyna, Financial Advisory, Carilion Health Systems, Roanoake, Va.

Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc., a Johnson & Johnson company headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, develops and markets a broad portfolio of advanced surgical instruments for less invasive and traditional surgery. Its mission is to help physicians around the world transform patient care through innovation. The company's focus is on designing innovative, procedure-enabling devices for interventional diagnosis and treatment of various diseases and conditions in the areas of general and thoracic surgery, breast disease, gynecology, and urology.

Source: Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc.

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