Patient Safety and the SLP

SLPs and all health care workers must be concerned with patient safety procedures. It is necessary to recognize theoretical and actual safety concerns and to take proactive steps to prevent safety issues as well as following appropriate procedures if any safety issues arise in the workplace.

ASHA Policy Documents

The following documents address patient safety in relation to the procedure or setting described:

Joint Commission Safety Goals

Consistent with the national focus on patient safety among federal and private healthcare analysts, Joint Commission has implemented patient safety goals. These goals are updated annually and may different slightly, depending on the setting.

SLPs and audiologists should be aware of the "do not use" list of abbreviations. These are abbreviations, acronyms and symbols that could be easily misread and should not be included in medical record documentation. 

SLPs and Multiskilling

Another patient safety issue that affects SLPs is the issue of multiskilling. The issues of multiskilling and cost containment present new challenges for members to perform activities that were not previously expected of them. Some of these activities are not considered "skilled" and are also taught to family members and technicians, such as taking blood pressures, suctioning or assisting with transfers. Other activities, such as completing functional assessments, require SLPs to score items about a patient's status that they may not feel trained to evaluate. ASHA's Code of Ethics states that clinicians must be competent by virtue of training, education and experience to perform any activities. Thus, appropriate training and support is necessary for an SLP to undertake any activity in which they are not already competent. It may be advisable for your facility to develop a written policy that addresses the level of involvement and training that SLPs will have, and a mechanism for verifying their competency. See ASHA's position statement on multiskilling.

Health Literacy and Patient Safety

Many organizations, such as the Joint Commission and American Medical Association, have recognized the link between patient safety and clearly communicating with patients about health-related issues. Health literacy, defined by the American Medical Association Foundation as "the ability to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions and follow instructions for treatment," has a significant impact on patient safety. More information is available at:

Related Links and Resources

Articles of Interest

  • Bates, D. W., & Gawande A. A. (2003). Improving safety with information technology. New England Journal of Medicine, 348(25), 2526–2534.
  • Gerberding, J. L. (2002). Hospital-Onset Infections: A Patient Safety Issue. Annals of Internal Medicine, 137(8), 665–670.
  • Leape, L. L. (2004). Making health care safe: Are we up to it? (Gross Lecture). Journal of Pediatric Surgery, 39, 258–266.
  • Leape, L. L., Berwick, D. M., Bates, D. W. (2002). What practices will most improve safety? Evidence-based medicine meets patient safety. JAMA, 288, 501–507.
  • Leape, L. L., Woods, D., Hatlie, M., et al. (1998). Promoting patient safety by preventing medical error. JAMA, 280, 1444–1447.

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