Celebrating World Patient Safety Day

How healthcare worker safety keeps patients safe

Patient safety is an age-old concept. Enshrined in various documents, from the medical works of Ancient Greeks (“Practice two things in your dealings with disease: either help or do not harm the patient”) to the modern-day medical standards, it underscores the overarching principle of and foundation for delivering quality health care. 

Ensuring patient safety extends beyond the principle of doing no harm. It encompasses a wide range of associated dimensions: delivery of safe and effective communication, meaningful engagement of patients and public in improving health care safety, robust patient safety culture in the health services and promotion of that culture through research, education and policy making. 

These elements are critical components of patient care. When a piece is missing, the effects can be deadly. According to the report on the global state of patient safety by Imperial College London, up to 83 percent of harm is avoidable.  

The failures in patient safety often result from errors ranging from diagnostic to medication administration or clerical errors.  These errors are rooted in systemic issues, such as the lack of skilled health workforce; unavailability of safe, effective and affordable medicines; poor infrastructure; or inadequate health care governance. The consequences of these failures are the high economic burden and long-lasting adverse effects — and even catastrophic impact — on the patients.   

The continuously evolving complexity of healthcare systems around the world has only heightened the gravity of the problem, as it introduces more possibilities for error and decreases transparency. To put patient safety firmly at the top of global health priories, in 2019 the World Health Assembly (WHA) adopted a resolution on global action on patient safety and established World Patient Safety Day. With this annual campaign, the WHA brings together health workers, patients, caregivers, communities, health care leaders and policy makers and calls upon united global action to make patient care safer.    

To highlight the link between health worker safety and patient safety and to promote actions protecting the safety of health workers, the WHA chose “Health Worker Safety: A Priority for Patient Safety” as the theme for this year’s World Patient Safety Day.  

The COVID-19 pandemic and crisis has brought this specific prerequisite to patient safety into a sharp focus. Health workers have demonstrated an unparalleled dedication to helping patients and communities during this difficult time. Yet, although the pandemic is unprecedented in recent history, the challenges it poses to health workers — working under extremely stressful conditions or in unsafe environment, often with insufficient staff and at high risk to their own physical and mental health — are not. Many health workers face these challenges in their everyday work, but the pandemic has exacerbated them. 

For example, a group of Chinese doctors collaborating across hospital psychiatric departments analyzed the mental health of health care workers in and around Wuhan. They found that those working in areas more severely impacted by the coronavirus tended to show higher levels of psychological burden. 

“Overall, 50.4%, 44.6%, 34.0%, and 71.5% of all participants reported symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and distress, respectively,” the group concluded

According to the WHO, “Stigmatized as vectors of contagion in many countries, some have been assaulted, others were denied transport while commuting to work, and entire families were evicted from their homes.”

These issues, besides presenting a threat to health care workers themselves, also increase the possibility of errors in patient care which might lead to patient harm. 

The dedication health care workers have shown to their communities in the face of these threats is just one reason Lionbridge joins the global community to commemorate World Patient Safety Day.  

As a leading language service provider to Life Sciences, Lionbridge is proud to partner with industry leaders committed to improving and saving patient lives with bridge-building, barrier-breaking technology and services. Lionbridge offers its sincere gratitude and appreciation to physicians, nurses, practitioners, researchers, technicians, administrators and all other health workers for the work they do and the difference they make every day, taking care of patients and their families. Thank you and stay safe! 

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Nataliya Volohov
Nataliya Volohov