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Speak Up Initiative: Preventing Errors in Patient Care

Everyone has a role in making health care safe—physicians, health care executives, nurses, and technicians. Health care organizations across the country are working to make health care safety a priority. You, as the patient, can also play a vital role in making your health care safe by becoming an active, involved, and informed member of your health care team.

Sponsored by The Joint Commission, Speak Up is a program that provides tools to help patients be an effective part of the health care team.

Speak up if you have questions or concerns, and if you don’t understand, ask again. It’s your body and you have a right to know.

Pay attention to the care you are receiving. Make sure you’re getting the right treatments and medications by the right health care professionals. Don’t assume anything.

Educate yourself about your diagnosis, the medical tests you are undergoing, and your treatment plan.

Ask a trusted family member or friend to be your advocate.

Know what medications you take and why you take them. Medication errors are the most common health care mistakes.

Use a hospital, clinic, surgery center, or other type of health care organization that has undergone a rigorous on-site evaluation against established, state-of-the-art quality and safety standards, such as that provided by The Joint Commission.

Participate in all decisions about your treatment. You are the center of the health care team.

If Regional West Medical Center is unable to resolve your concerns, contact The Joint Commission at 800-994-6610 toll-free or email

Information provided by The Joint Commission.

Rapid Response and Condition Help

Rapid Response teams include critical care staff members, including Intensive Care Unit RNs, respiratory therapists, and the house supervisor. When a patient shows signs of distress or changes in vital signs, the team is called within minutes to the bedside for rapid assessment and treatment. Their response is crucial because patient survival rates are directly impacted by how quickly the patient can be assessed and treated.

Regional West’s staff-activated Rapid Response team was recently recognized for excellence by the Nebraska Hospital Association. Above average response by staff resulted in a subsequent reduction of respiratory and/or cardiac arrest outside of the Intensive Care Unit, not to mention increased positive outcomes for patient dismissal.

At Regional West, we have taken the concept of Rapid Response one step further with Condition Help. Condition Help is a patient/visitor activated Rapid Response team. This action is a safety tool to improve patient care and patient safety. It empowers the patient/visitor to access further help when the health care team is not present or not responding to the visitor or patient’s concerns as expected. This activation of a Rapid Response provides another layer of safety when there is a breakdown in how care is being managed or there is confusion about the plan of care.

Activating Condition Help 
Condition Help may be activated by family or loved ones when:

  • They have spoken to the nurse, charge nurse, or physician and still feel their concerns have not been addressed. 
  • There is a noticeable, clinical change in the patient and the health care team is not present or is not responding to the patient or visitors’ concerns. 
  • There is a breakdown in how care is being managed or confusion about the plan of care. 

“When our patients are at home and have a medical emergency, they have the option of calling 911. We feel they have the same right while patients at Regional West,” said Shirley Knodel, Chief Nursing Officer at Regional West. “It’s not a tool to be taken lightly however; it is designed for use in emergency situations only.”