What should I do if I see a mistake in the hospital?

Let someone know. It is important for everyone’s eyes and ears to be in tune to the surroundings in order to prevent and stop mistakes. The following steps should be taken to report a mistake you witness in the hospital:
  • Talk to someone immediately if you are concerned or see something that is not right. The closer this individual is to your personal care, the better. Your bedside nurse is a good place to start. However, do not wait to report the incident if no one you know is around. All healthcare staff members -- from physicians to the custodial crew -- are there to make your care as safe as possible.
  • Raise the flag about what you have seen or what has happened to you in a respectful yet assertive manner. No one wants to make a mistake in your care or in that of another patient, so let the caregiver know in order for him/her to address the problem quickly.
  • If the error takes place in the course of your own care, let the person you talk to resolve the problem. Be clear that you expect to hear back about the issue, and that you would like to see something done to address the error. You or a family member should follow up after reporting.
  • If you do not receive an answer during your stay or after being discharged from the hospital, contact the hospital’s customer service, patient advocacy or patient and family relations department. Each hospital may have different titles for these groups. If you are uncomfortable asking someone directly within the unit you or a family member was in, seek out a neutral party (like a hospital librarian) who can help you identify another group to contact.
  • Many hospitals have an established system for reporting errors, such as a suggestion box or a hot line. Use these systems. The problem will not be addressed if it is not reported.
  • Keep in mind that the hospital should want to use your experience to improve the safety its care. If you are able, offer to talk to the patient safety advisory council at the hospital to share your story and to advocate for improvement of patient safety.

Continue Learning about Preventing Medical Errors

Don’t Miss Your Misdiagnosis
Don’t Miss Your Misdiagnosis
In the 2014 movie The Angriest Man in Brooklyn, Henry Altmann, (Robin Williams) was able to set his life straight after a doctor mistakenly told him h...
Read More
What can I do to prevent a misdiagnosis?
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MDDr. Mehmet Oz, MD
To help prevent a misstep in your medical diagnosis you need to be an active and persistent particip...
More Answers
How are surgical complications prevented in elderly or ill patients?
Joane GoodroeJoane Goodroe
Surgical complications are prevented in elderly or ill patients in several ways. Give a very accurat...
More Answers
How Can I Avoid Medication Errors While I'm In a Hospital?
How Can I Avoid Medication Errors While I'm In a Hospital?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.