Patient Engagement

TakeCHARGE of Your Health Care With These Five Steps

I stood next to “Laura’s” bed just before her surgery as the nurse asked her for her list of medications and allergies. Laura shot back at the nurse, “Don’t you have it? I already gave the same list to everyone!” The nurse explained that the question is a safety precaution, meant to ensure that everyone who treats the patient has the same information. “It’s for your own protection,” she gently explained.

TakeCHARGE: 5 Steps to Safer Health Care is a program developed to help people help each other become well-prepared patients. TakeCHARGE is meant to help everyone participate in patient safety.

The general public probably doesn’t know what “patient safety” means, so it seems like a bother when safety precautions are taken. But when something goes wrong, the blame goes right to the healthcare professionals who tried to help and probably did the best they could with what they know. Now more than ever, healthcare professionals are pushed to the max physically and mentally, in ways I can’t even imagine. Yet, mistakes still happen that can cause injury – or worse – to a patient.

Most people haven’t been taught how to prepare to go to the doctor or hospital for care — whether planned or for an emergency. They expect everything to go right every time, and why shouldn’t they? But things happen. No one plans to get into a car accident, but we still wear seat belts. We don’t expect planes to crash, but we still get instructions before take-off, and every airline uses the same instructions for what to do in an emergency. But when we hear about becoming a “prepared patient,” the information is often scattered and general: “Bring someone with you when you go to the doctor.” What is that person supposed to do during the doctor’s appointment?

And what does telling someone to list their medications really mean? Does that include over-the-counter pain medications someone may take every day for back pain? I recently went over medications with a man whose list consisted of 21 medications. When I physically went through his meds, I saw that he hadn’t included his allergy medications or his inhaler for asthma. On further review, I found eight bottles of expired medications, and even one under his wife’s name — a controlled substance that he finds helps him, so he takes it, too.

TakeCHARGE is a year-round program with a five-month campaign that kicks off in March during Patient Safety Awareness Week and goes through to Patient Safety Day in September. Each month is focused on one of the 5 Steps

  1. Understand & complete your advance directives
  2. Keep a record of your medical history & current medications
  3. Prepare for doctor visits / make a list of questions
  4. Prevent infections / ask caregivers to wash their hands
  5. Use an advocate / be an advocate for others

TakeCHARGE presentations — available for community organizations, civic groups, faith communities, or families — include learning the importance of the 5 Steps, and opportunities for becoming a TakeCHARGE Ambassador and learning to help others. There is no cost to host a presentation, be trained as an Ambassador or to get ongoing support from the TakeCHARGE Leadership team.

Learn more about TakeCHARGE at

TakeCHARGE is a program of Pulse Center for Patient Safety Education & Advocacy

For more information or to become a TakeCHARGE Partner, contact me BCPA at


Ilene Corina is president and founder of the Pulse Center for Patient Safety Education and Advocacy. Corina has served on the board of organizations including The Joint Commission and the National Patient Safety Foundation and has won numerous awards for her work as an educator and advocate. Corina is the author of "Rants of a Patient Safety Advocate: Stories from the Bedside." Learn more about Corina and her work at

Ilene Corina, BCPA has 6 post(s) at

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