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Safety Doesn't Happen by Accident

In conjunction with SingHealth Patient Safety Week, we highlight outstanding staff who have been an integral part of the safety framework, ensuring every patient receives in a safe space. There’s a saying: “Safety doesn’t happen by accident”. In a 2016 media release by Johns Hopkins Medicine, experts calculated that “more than 250,000 deaths per year are due to medical error in the United States”. While this may be happening in a country far from Singapore, it does offer a perspective of how important patient safety is. We all know that mistakes can happen - from simple things such as forgetting an item on your grocery shopping list, or checking the back page of an exam paper (true story – it still haunts me to this day), to something more serious like forgetting to file your tax return or not accidentally running a red light.

For Senior Staff Nurse Sarah Khong, patient safety is her top priority at work. Sarah has earned several “Good Catch” pins, awarded to staff who speak up and catch mistakes any harm is caused. “It’s my duty to actively speak up. It doesn’t matter how senior the person is, I will highlight the issue when needed,” she explains. Sarah started her journey in NCCS’ Ambulatory Treatment Unit before transferring to the NCCS Clinic at Changi General Hospital in 2010. 
SSN Sarah Khong takes aim at “Target Zero Harm”
SSN Sarah Khong takes aim at “Target Zero Harm”

Some organizations place the onus on safety supervisors or safety inspectors. However, in the high stakes world of healthcare, safety is everyone’s personal responsibility. Harm can come to patients and fellow staff if safety is taken lightly. 

Sarah treats every patient that comes under her care like a family member. It’s a good feeling when everything comes together. “It feels great when treatment is given successfully and the patient gets better,” says Sarah, with a smile. “It’s also satisfying when you and your colleagues end the day with everyone safe and a job well done.”

Some may view safety as a huge undertaking, requiring constant effort, but for Sarah, it’s very simple: Do your part and do it well.  That means putting effort and attention to what you’re doing and taking charge of your area of responsibility. “Sometimes you can see when something isn’t right, but other times it may not be so clear,” Sarah shares. “If ever there is any doubt or when something doesn’t feel right, slow down, pause and check.”