The number one patient safety goal in the country is proper identification of patients. There have been many unnecessary procedures and/or surgeries performed on patients over the years that should have been prevented because one or more members of the health care team either neglected to, or were afraid to check the patient’s ID.
About 8 years ago, I performed an x-ray series on the wrong patient, and I will never do it again. I was at an outpatient imaging center (where no wrist bands were worn). I called the patient’s name, and an elderly woman stood up and followed me toward the x-ray room. We were busy, so I didn’t bother asking for a date of birth because my paperwork said 80 years old, and she looked “about” that age. BIG MISTAKE!!! About one hour later, a patient with the same name inquired how long it would be from the front desk receptionist. You can imagine the confusion that followed when I informed the receptionist that I already performed the x-rays on that patient. After a considerable amount of time was spent sorting it out, I felt horrible because no one could identify the patient who I actually x-rayed (and who left an hour ago). Being busy is no excuse! Please learn from my mistake and verify name and date of birth in an outpatient setting with no wrist-bands.
I have heard exponentially worse stories of surgical teams who suspected that they were operating on the wrong patient, but were afraid to say anything because of a Physician’s demeanor. Remember, you are the patient advocate just like everyone else on the health care team. You can still check a wrist-band without making a big production, and you MUST inform the Physician if there is a discrepancy. It’s not only the Physician that is liable, but every member of the health care team who came in contact with the patient, and should have confirmed ID.
You should always check the patient wrist-band in a hospital setting. Two identifiers are required, but I suggest that three should be verified by all Technologists: Patient name, date of birth, and medical record number. If it is an outpatient, simply look at their wrist band while in the waiting room, and wait until you are behind closed doors to verbally verify ID. Inpatients can be visibly checked in the hallway while waiting for an x-ray room to become available, but should also be verbally verified once in the exam room. Please remember to protect their privacy.
It’s hard to admit that you have done something wrong, and sometimes it can be very painful, but no one will benefit from a mistake unless the error can be identified and steps are made to further prevent the same error in the future.