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Patient safety is a healthcare discipline that emphasises the reporting, analysis and prevention of medical errors that often lead to adverse healthcare events. As per statistical reports, healthcare errors impact 1 in every 10 patients around the world. Therefore, the World Health Organisation (WHO) calls patient safety an endemic concern.

 According to the World Health Organisation, patient safety is the absence of preventable damage to a patient during the rendering of healthcare and decreasing of risk of unnecessary harm associated with healthcare to an acceptable minimum.

An acceptable minimum refers to the collective notions of given current knowledge, resources available and the context in which care was delivered, weighed against the risk of non-treatment or other treatment. Every point in the process of caregiving contains a certain degree of inherent unsafety. A number of countries have published studies showing that significant numbers of patients are harmed during healthcare, either resulting in permanent injury, increased length of stay in healthcare facilities, or even death. Clear policies, organisational leadership capacity, data to drive safety improvements, skilled healthcare professionals and effective involvement of patients in their care, are all needed to ensure sustainable and significant improvements in the safety of healthcare.

Van den Heever (2016) indicates that there has been a sharp increase in both the number and value of medical negligence claims in South Africa. In the medical context, liability may among other things, be induced for breach of legal duty; professional negligence; assault due to lack of informed consent; an invasion of privacy as a result of unwarranted disclosure of details concerning a patient; the performance of an unnecessary procedure; and breach of contract should healthcare providers fail to perform medical intervention agreed on.

In the past, the assumption was often that it’s nursing’s responsibility to ensure patient care, for example, avoiding medication errors and preventing patient falls. While these dimensions of safety remain important within the nursing purview, the breadth and depth of patient safety and quality improvement are far greater. The most critical contribution of nursing to patient safety, in any setting, is the ability to coordinate and integrate the multiple aspects of quality within the care directly provided by nursing, and across the care delivered by others in the setting. This integrative function is probably a component of the often repeated finding that richer staffing (greater percentage of registered nurses to other nursing staff) is associated with fewer complications and lower mortality (Tourangeau, Cranley & Jeffs: 2006).

In conclusion one has to realise that patient safety is the cornerstone of high-quality healthcare. Much of the work defining patient safety and practices that prevent harm have focused on negative outcomes of care, such as mortality and morbidity. Nurses are essentially critical to the surveillance and coordination that reduce such adverse outcomes. Much work remains to be done in evaluating the impact of nursing care on positive quality indicators, such as appropriate self-care and other measures of improved health status.

 Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it. Kevyn Aucoin