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It’s Patient Safety Awareness Week; Be Sepsis Aware

March 10, 2020

When it came to patient safety in years past, patients used to visit the doctor’s office and never question what the doctor or nurse said. Their words were the gospel when it came to health – after all, they knew best. But over time, the public began to realize that they, themselves, had an important role to play in healthcare and patient safety overall. The doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals were the professional part of their healthcare team, but patients and caregivers were important members too. It’s now well known that people have to be knowledgeable about their health and treatments to promote the best possible care.

Why patient safety awareness is vital

Patients and caregivers can help healthcare professionals understand their unique needs, which improves patient safety. When patients are up to date on all their medications and treatments, they can provide the correct information. Patients and caregivers can advocate better if they know what to watch for in terms of treatment side effects or when they should start seeing results from a new treatment. When patients and caregivers are aware of how to identify signs and symptoms of infections, they can reduce the risk of sepsis. Knowing what causes infections can help patients and caregivers work to prevent them.

Sepsis education improves patient safety

When Carl Flatley founded Sepsis Alliance, the word “sepsis” was considered a spelling error during a spell check. Now, it’s mentioned in popular medical shows, discussed in news stories, and more. Sepsis Alliance’s original reason for being was to help educate the public about the dangers of sepsis, and how to advocate for themselves. The push to make sepsis a commonly used word was based on the idea that people can’t advocate for themselves if they don’t know the danger exists. And the awareness campaigns did have an effect.

Sepsis Alliance began conducting an annual awareness survey several years ago. Public awareness then was around 19%. The most recent survey, taken in 2019, showed that 65% have heard the word sepsis. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that all those who said they knew the word could actually define it though. Nor could they all explain its severity. According to the survey:

  • One-third of respondents knew the seriousness of strokes and diabetes but only 14% did of sepsis
  • More than 75% mistakenly believed that there were more deaths from opioid overdoses than from sepsis
  • Only 14% of respondents correctly identified the four listed in the survey, while 57% could identify stroke symptoms

Sepsis Alliance TIME™ campaign

The TIME™ campaign began in an effort to simplify sepsis basics, helping people to identify the most common sepsis symptoms. The memory aid TIME helps people remember that these symptoms could mean sepsis: a rise or drop in body Temperature; reasons to believe there may be an Infection; any changes in Mental status, including drowsiness or confusion; and feelings of Extreme illness or pain.

help reduce the sepsis burden by remembering TIME


What you can do to improve patient safety awareness

Sepsis Alliance started as a grass-roots effort to educate the public about sepsis. It continues to be a grass-root effort as sepsis advocates across the country and beyond help spread the word. Advocates can give talks about sepsis to social groups, at work, or among friends, using the Sepsis 911 Community Education Presentation or the Sepsis 911 Sepsis and Aging Presentation. Others run community awareness events, like Spike Out Sepsis, Sips for Sepsis, and more. Some people are more subtle in their approach by wearing sepsis awareness apparel, using sepsis awareness stickers, handing out Sepsis Alliance brochures, etc. There are many ways everyone can help educate their peers, friends, colleagues, and strangers about sepsis.

Patient Safety Awareness Week is a great jumping off point to start a sepsis awareness campaign. Please join us in helping save lives and limbs.

To learn more about Patient Safety Awareness Week, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.