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The uniform solution for patient safety

Patient Safety Awareness Week officially kicked off March 8 this year and is celebrated through March 14, but should remain a focus year-round. Most relate this week of recognition to slip-and-falls, but patient safety can also be directly affected by the uniforms worn by healthcare employees.  

All healthcare facilities deal with intrusions -- we hear stories of people impersonating environmental services staff members or patient transport staff members at acute and non-acute facilities, even surgery centers. By just putting on a pair of scrubs or a lab coat, imposters are gaining access to a resident’s room or a patient’s private residence, posing an immediate threat to the employee and patient.

Healthcare facilities now recognize how uniforms can help prevent such intrusions by outfitting their staff in a branded uniform program, making their garments unique and difficult for intruders to replicate. Along with a branded uniform program, a healthcare facility may also color-code employee uniforms based on their department or role. The differential branding by department makes it more challenging for trespassers to falsely impersonate a member of the staff.

This also provides patients with a better sense of security and comfort when they are able to identify which employees belong in their room or residence. A 2000 study conducted by J.D. Power and Associates confirmed that “uniforms could lead people to associate positive personal attributes such as credibility, trust and confidence with employees in uniforms.”

Introducing a branded uniform program is just one of many minor upgrades that could produce considerable improvements for patient safety at healthcare facilities.

Has your healthcare facility utilized uniforms as a tool to improve patient safety? If so, what specific improvements did you see?

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