When To Speak Up: How To Advocate for Patient Safety

Written by Rose Torrento on Thursday, April 20, 2023 Posted in On the Job


Healthcare facilities are extremely regulated environments. There’s a process or protocol for just about everything. Unfortunately, these same facilities can also be fast paced and unpredictable, potentially causing safeguards to fall by the wayside. When this happens, risk creeps into the equation — and those most at risk usually are not in a position to protect themselves.

When safety standards fail — whether due to negligence or in error — it becomes the duty of nurses to step in and advocate for the safety of their patients. It’s not always an easy situation, but it’s essential nonetheless.

When to raise concerns about patient safety

Patient safety means anticipating and addressing potential issues with medical procedures or the hospital. The concern may stem from an incorrect drug dose, disrespect of the patient, a broken rule, a provider’s poor clinical judgment, or other potentially dangerous situation.

Every healthcare facility puts standards in place to mitigate patient risk. Many strive to uphold safety standards from regulatory agencies like OSHA and HIPAA, along with implementing their own processes, systems, and protocols. But no system is perfect, and travel nurses should feel empowered to speak up when something goes wrong.

How to address safety concerns

Sadly, multiple factors discourage travel nurses from speaking up. Some fear they’re not knowledgeable enough about the situation to make an accurate assessment. Others remain silent because they’re intimidated by the power dynamic between themselves and the provider being questioned. Some are simply unmotivated or lack the confidence to say something.

A few effective methods can help travel nurses address concerns and have them taken seriously. The first is ARCC, which stands for ask, request, concern, and chain of command. Ask others in the room if there’s a different way to approach the situation. If met with resistance, kindly request they try using your suggestion. Be sure to voice your concern, and if the provider is still resistant, elevate the situation to people in the chain of command, such as a manager or supervisor.

Another tactic travel nurses can use is called CUS: concern, uncomfortable, and safety. Start by articulating your concern. Explain why it makes you feel uncomfortable, and then describe the possible actions to reduce the safety risk.


Don’t be afraid to speak up for patients

Speaking up isn’t the easiest thing to do. You may have a million thoughts trying to convince you not to do it. One good reason to act outweighs them all: your duty to be an advocate for patients. Find the courage to speak by realizing you’re simply keeping the patient’s best interest at heart. It shouldn’t matter if you’re a staff nurse or travel nurse. When a patient’s safety is on the line, speaking up is always worth it.

Advocating for patient safety doesn’t fall on travel nurses alone. Leaders of healthcare facilities must promote a workplace culture where investigating safety concerns is prioritized. Travel nurses also need mentors who teach them to trust their knowledge and experiences. who motivate travel nurses to speak up can significantly reduce adverse patient events.

Remember, patient safety is the only reason you need to voice your concerns about a questionable medical decision. It’s better to speak up than fall silent, even if you’re in the wrong. You’ll be glad you said something!

At Health Providers Choice, we strive to empower our travel nurses to be confident and knowledgeable. This means embracing your role as a patient advocate — especially when safety comes into question. If you need guidance or support to stand up for safety in the workplace, contact us online or call us today at 888-299-9800.

About the Author

Rose Torrento

Rosemarie Torrento has worked in health care for more than 26 years, beginning as a registered nurse in 1988. Early in her nursing career, Torrento worked as a freelance contract nurse before accepting a position in nursing administration. During her 17-year tenure in that role, she oversaw nursing employment and travel nurse contracting at a Level 1 Trauma Hospital in Michigan. Understanding the challenges travel nurses faced, Torrento founded Health Providers Choice Inc. (HPC) in 2003. Through Torrento’s extensive experience and her role as President and CEO, HPC provides travel placement of registered nurses and allied health professionals to hospital systems nationally.