Definitions: incidents and accidents

An incident is an event that carries no consequences for a person’s state of health or well-being but which has an unusual outcome that, in other circumstances, could carry consequences for a person or that only result in material damages.

An accident is a situation wherein a risk event occurs that carries or could carry consequences for a person’s state of health or well-being.

Communicating effectively

Tell the doctors and the members of the care team about any illness or disease and about any treatment you are receiving. Remember to tell them about any allergies or intolerance, in particular to:

  • Medication
  • Food;
  • Substances used in hospitals (disinfectants, dressings, contrast agents, etc.);
  • Anything else.

Whenever you undergo a test or receive treatment or medication, you must have understood:

  • Why you need it;
  • Its effects and associated risks;
  • How the tests and treatments will unfold.

If the answers to these questions aren’t clear, if you aren’t sure everything is unfolding as it should or if you are getting contradictory information, ask for an explanation and repeat the information in your own words. This will help you to gain a better understanding.

Remember to tell the care team immediately if you have concerns regarding the suggested care or treatment, or if you notice new symptoms. 

Hand disinfection

Anywhere care and services are provided, the risk of infection increases. To avoid contracting an infection, it is important to prevent transmission of any germs (bacteria or viruses) from one patient or resident to another. The best way to do this is to practise good hand hygiene. Wash your hands regularly with an alcohol-based solution.

Before providing any care, treatment or intervention and before any physical contact with a patient or resident, the professionals, doctors and other caregivers must disinfect their hands. If they use gloves, they should also disinfect their hands before wearing them.

If in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask them whether they have disinfected their hands before providing care.

Your loved ones and you can also contribute to reducing the transmission of germs by regularly washing your hands, including:

  • Upon arriving at or leaving the hospital;
  • After going to the bathroom;
  • Before eating;
  • After blowing your nose;
  • As soon as your hands are dirty;
  • When you leave your room to go for a test or treatment;
  • Upon returning to your room after a test or treatment.

Pay attention to the notices posted close to the entrance to rooms, stating the rules to follow to avoid transmitting germs from one patient to another. In some cases, wearing a gown and gloves is required to enter a room. It’s important to follow the rules and to make sur that the staff follows them as well.


Everything about your medication and treatment must be accurate and precise.

Tell the doctor or the care team about all of the medication you usually take. It’s best to ask your pharmacist to give you the list. That list should include:

  • Alternative medicine treatments;
  • Plant-based medication;
  • Homeopathic remedies;
  • Preparations of Chinese medicine;
  • Vitamins and mineral salts (trace elements);
  • Food supplements;
  • Anti-aging products;
  • Medication you take occasionally (e.g. over-the-counter headache medication);
  • Medication to which you have an intolerance;
  • The list of your prescription medication (your pharmacist can provide it).

Tell the doctor or your nurse about any allergies or intolerances you may have, including to:

  • Medication;
  • Food;
  • Substances used in hospitals (disinfectants, dressings, contrast agents, etc.);
  • Anything else.

Request an allergy bracelet if you don’t have one.

Before taking a new medication, you can find out about it by asking:

  • What is it used for?
  • What are the instructions and side-effects?
  • Is it compatible with the other medication you are taking?


If, after taking a medication, you have an unusual reaction, tell the members of the care team or the doctor immediately.

If you see that a medication you are given does not look like the one you usually take, ask for it to be checked to make sure it is the right one.

Flag the following to the care team without hesitation if you believe:

  • That you haven’t received the right medication;
  • That the dosage is wrong;
  • That the time to take it is wrong;
  • That you are receiving too many medications.

Never take medication belonging to another patient or resident and never give yours to any one else. What is beneficial for you may be very dangerous for someone else.

If you are hospitalised, tell the care staff if you have your personal medication with you but don’t take it without their authorisation. You can give your medication to your family members or to the nurse during your stay. Remember to ask for it back when you leave the hospital.

Procedures and surgery

Free and informed consent must be obtained from the patient before any care is provided. The doctor must therefore name and explain the risks and complications associated with the intervention.

We encourage you to ask the doctor any questions you have and to ask for clarification until you’re sure that you understand. You can repeat the information the doctor gives you in your own words, and ask for pictures or drawings of the surgery. This will enable you to check whether you have understood the explanation. Furthermore, having your list of questions on hand or the presence of a family member at the meeting with the doctor will ensure that you don’t forget anything.

If the surgical site is traced with marker on your skin and you are in doubt about its location, tell the doctor or the care team at once.

Preventing confusion

The right care for the right patient.

In partnership with patients and their families, at least two unique identifiers are used to ensure that each patient receives the intervention or service intended for them.

Consequently, before any test or treatment, you will be asked to provide two identifiers such as:

  • Last name and first name;
  • Date of birth;
  • Civic address;
  • Telephone number;
  • Health insurance number.

This step is important. You make be asked for this information several times. Always provide it. State the information clearly each time, to avoid any possibility of mistaken identity. If someone addresses you using the wrong name or in a way that isn’t clear, correct them immediately and state who you are.

If you are about to receive care or a treatment and you are not certain whether it is meant for you, talk to the staff about your doubts. Make sure that the information on your identification bracelet is accurate.

Double identification

The care staff must frequently ask you to verbally identify yourself (first name, last name, date of birth) before administering any care or treatment . They also are under the obligation of confirming your identity, either by checking your hospital bracelet, your hospital card or any other of your identification papers. These precautions enable the staff to prevent cases of mistaken identity and to ensure that you receive the right care or treatment.

Discharge and leaving

To ensure that all goes well when you go home.

When you leave the hospital, make sure you have a loved one with you to listen to and write down the discharge or transfer instructions.

You must know precisely:

  • Who is in charge of your treatment going forward;
  • What appointments you should plan for;
  • What to watch for;
  • Which medication you must continue taking and with what frequency;
  • What new medication you must take;
  • Which previous medication has been stopped;
  • What are the signs that you must report and who to consult;
  • Where you are being transferred and why, as the case may be;
  • How to get to that location;
  • If you are changing departments, how and by whom you will be cared for once you get there.

Check that you have been given your prescription. As soon as you leave the hospital, go to your pharmacy and bring all your previous medications with you so that your pharmacist can check them against your prescription.

If necessary, make an appointment for your next check-up and ask for a medical certificate if you are incapacitated for work.

What to do if you think that a mistake has been made

If you think that a mistake has been made affecting you or a loved one, tell the doctor or a member of the care team immediately.

Request information from the members of the team or the administration.

If a mistake has been made, ask the doctor what happened exactly. Ask for information about the possible consequences and about what can be done to avoid further consequences.

You may be asked for details of your experience when the event that affected you is divulged. Your experience is important to us and contributes to improving the safety of care and services.

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