Plan Staff Activities for National Patient Safety Awareness Week

This article originally appeared in the February/March issue of Patient Safety Monitor Journal.

March 12–18 marks the start of the 2017 National Patient Safety Awareness Week (PSAW). The week is organized by the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) to increase awareness on patient safety issues. The event is aimed at educating and engaging healthcare professionals and the general public through web events, social media, educational programs, and materials.
“The campaign emphasizes that everyone participating in the healthcare system has a role to play in keeping patients safe and free from harm,” said Tejal K. Gandhi, MD, MPH, CPPS, president and CEO of NPSF, in a press release. “Patient Safety Awareness Week is an important annual focus of the campaign and we hope to have record numbers of participants this year.”
While PSAW has been going on for several years, in 2016 it was made part of the NPSF’s United for Patient Safety campaign. Sara Valentin, NPSF assistant vice president of event management and strategy, says the purpose of the campaign is to spread the idea that “every day is patient safety day,” rather than just one week. However, PSAW still has a crucial role in spreading the news and edifying people on quality care and safety.
“Over the years, we feel the week has been very successful in engaging healthcare organizations and their teams in patient safety,” Valentin says. “We are making additional efforts to further engage the public and educate people about patient safety. Since the launch of the new [NPSF] site, we have seen an increase in traffic, and we think that translates into a raising of awareness.”
Getting involved
Valentin says hundreds of organizations participate in the week, both in the U.S. and internationally. The 700-plus members of the Stand Up for Patient Safety program will be given a free PSAW toolkit to help them recognize the week in their organizations. She hopes that the 1,500 people who signed the foundation’s Patient Safety Pledge will try to get involved in the week as well. However, everyone is invited to take part, she says.
“It is a very popular event, because it is a chance for learning, improving, but also having fun,” Valentin says. “People have been known to bake Patient Safety Awareness Week–themed cookies and cakes. Many organizations use the week to put on safety fairs or skills fairs for staff. Others have safety booths set up in the lobby for patients to ask questions.
“It is also a time when organizations pause to recognize all the hard work frontline staff put in each and every day to ensure that every day is patient safety day. We offer Patient Safety Champions stickers in our online store that are very popular. These have been given to staff in recognition of demonstrating a commitment to patient safety.”
NPSF has a few events planned to raise awareness this year, including:
•    A NPSF webinar, “The Voice of the Patient and the Public,” March 15, 2–3 p.m. EST
•    A Twitter chat, “Patient Safety: What the Public Wants (and Needs) to Know” (#PSAW17chat), March 14, 1–2 p.m. EST
People can also take part by:
•    Downloading free promotional materials to put up around their organization.
•    Staying abreast of PSAW news and updates with the social media hashtags #UnitedforPatientSafety and #PSAW2017.
•    Sending photos of themselves in patient gowns as part of the #WeAreAllPatients campaign.
•    Sharing the NPSF “Ask Me 3” video with patients, which encourages people to ask three questions of their healthcare provider: What is my main problem? What do I need to do? Why is it important for me to do this?
“We love to hear from people and organizations that are participating in the week,” says Valentin. “We would like to encourage anyone and everyone to visit the United for Patient Safety campaign website ( to share their plans, ask questions, post pictures, honor a loved one impacted by patient safety, or access materials. The website is the central hub of activity.”
What you can do
Alex Christgen, BS, CPPS, executive director for the Center for Patient Safety, encourages providers to use the week to remind the staff and community of their commitment to safety.
“It should be a time of celebration of successes, but also a time of reflection,” she says. “The Center for Patient Safety recommends organizations plan in advance for Patient Safety Awareness Week. Plans don’t have to be time-consuming or extravagant, but a little planning can go a long way.”
She says the center recommends hosting an event (or several events) to recognize patient safety efforts at an organization. For example:
•    Recognize staff and committees that work every day to provide safe care
•    Launch a patient safety culture assessment during the week
•    Have leadership, the patient safety/risk/quality department, and/or safety committees host events in the cafeteria with snacks, desserts, or something else special to celebrate safety at their organization
•    Ask departments to develop poster presentations of their successful safety efforts and display them in the hallways
•    Hang a Patient Safety Awareness Week poster in the foyer of the organization with signatures from all staff
•    Hold safety-focused training during Patient Safety Awareness Week
•    Publish safety-focused articles for the organization’s internal newsletter, professional newsletters, local newspapers, or local consumer groups
•    Contact a local radio station to host a spokesperson from the organization to share patient safety tips and highlights
•    Launch a new safety awareness effort: a “good catch” program, a “Comprehensive Unit-based Safety Program Team,” a “safety culture survey,” etc.
Getting involved

For more details on how to get involved in National Patient Safety Week, organizations can call David Coletta, NPSF senior vice president for strategic alliances, at 617-391-9908 or visit