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Basic Human Needs: Food, Water, Shelter and Safety

January 31, 2014

Safer Schools.  Safer Transportation.  Safer Food Supply.  Safer Communities.  Safer Internet.

 Safer Healthcare.  

Everywhere we go, we see projects and programs promoting safety.  Think about that for a moment, really think about the moments of your life when you felt safe, warm, cared for, comfortable.  Were you confident and empowered in that moment?  Now think about moments of your life when you felt unsafe, worried about imminent harm.  Were you confident and empowered in those moments?  Likely not, more likely you felt as i did this week sitting in an urban community hospital emergency waiting room with my child.  As we watched the waiting area unfold, our collective anxiety mounted.  The first hour, we reassured one another ‘it was just a busy night’.  During the second hour we grew increasingly nervous with the realization that two volunteers and a 20 something security guard were triaging patients as they came in.  What happened in the 3rd hour was too horrifying to mention.  So we sat for the 4th hour trying to decide if we could possibly get safe care in this setting.  Near the 5th hour we decided we were not safe in this environment and we left without being seen.

We are more fortunate then most.  Because we have had experience with healthcare, we knew we had options.  As we got to the car, the relief washed over us as we once again felt the comfort of safety.  A sense of safety is an essential human need.  People often asked me how I got through our boys’ multiple health crisis, surgeries and hospitalizations and my answer was always the same, as long as they felt safe, we could do anything we needed to do.  But if they were afraid, that was the hardest time for me.  So my efforts were always focused on creating a safe environment within the hospitalized or healthcare setting.  At first, that entailed singing softly in their ear at induction so they wouldn’t be afraid, later it meant checking meds before administration, using hand sanitizer and insisting everyone else did too.  And now I collaborate with large systems to bring safety to healthcare environment.  But i wanted to step back for a moment and ground myself in urgency needed to establish Safety Across the Board in healthcare.  Safety must be priority for everyone in healthcare.  Every single person.  Every one of us has the capacity today, right now to ensure a patient’s safety.  I’m sure that volunteer knew she was in over her head, but rather then call for professional help, something in that system made her try to manage the situation alone.  If you are working in environments that do not promote a sense of safety for you and your patients, speak up now.  Please.  Let’s look at safety in care as a basic human need and in doing so focus on doing everything within our individual power and our collective strength to ensure safety to all who encounter the healthcare system.

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