National Patient Safety Goals

Nursing Knowledge

National Patient Safety Goals

National Patient Safety Goals (NPSGs) are critical benchmarks established to enhance patient safety in healthcare settings. These goals provide clear guidelines for healthcare institutions, with specific emphasis on preventable errors. By understanding and adhering to these goals, nurses play an instrumental role in reducing healthcare-associated risks, ensuring optimal patient outcomes, and fostering a culture of safety within the healthcare environment.
Last updated: December 4, 2023


Remember the universal patient rights and the ethical principles that should guide every nurse's practice with this handy cheat sheet.

Table of contents

What is patient safety? 

Patient safety refers to the prevention of harm to patients in healthcare settings and the reduction of preventable risks to an acceptable minimum. Based on that, patient safety comes with systems of care delivery and practices that aim to prevent errors and learn from errors. 

Why is patient safety important? 

The primary goal of healthcare is to provide treatment and care that enhances health and well-being of patients. Preventable errors can compromise this objective. Further reasons why patient safety is important include: 

  • Economic considerations: avoidable errors result in higher costs due (e.g., longer hospital stays)
  • Social implications: consequences for all involved; focusing on safety can mitigate trauma and distress due to adverse events
  • Trust and compliance: patients knowing they can feel safe are more likely to adhere to treatments
  • Improvement: addressing safety issues provides constant learning opportunities

What are the national patient safety goals? 

The Joint Commission, an organization that accredits healthcare organizations and programs, established the National Patient Safety Goals program to assist accredited organizations in addressing areas of concern. 

The 7 patient safety goals: 

  1. Improve accuracy of patient identification
    • Use ≥ 2 patient identifiers 
    • Eliminate transfusion errors related to patient misidentification
  2. Improve effectiveness of communication among caregivers
    • Report critical test results within established time frame 
  3. Improve safety of using medications
    • Labeling
    • Accurate patient medication information
  4. Reduce harm associated with clinical alarm systems
    • Difficult to detect
    • Numerous alarm signals at once and desensitized staff
  5. Reduce risk of healthcare-associated infections
    • Hand hygiene guidelines
    • Evidence-based practices 
  6. The hospital identifies safety risks inherent in its patient population
    • Risk for suicide
  7. Universal protocol for preventing wrong site, wrong procedure, wrong person surgery
    • Pre-procedure verification process
    • Time-out before procedure

What is the purpose of the national patient safety goals?

The purpose of the national patient safety goals is to improve patient safety by focusing on problems in healthcare safety and how to solve them. 

When did the first national patient safety goals go into effect?

The first National Patient Safety Goals (NPSGs) were established by The Joint Commission in 2002 and went into effect on January 1, 2003. These goals were developed in response to the growing concern about patient safety in healthcare settings and the need for consistent guidelines to address preventable errors.

Which internal factors affect patient safety?

  1. Staffing levels
  2. Hospital culture
  3. External regulatory policies
  4. Resources availability
  5. General health trends in the population

Correct answers: 1, 2, and 4. 

Staffing levels affect the workload and capacity of staff and the potential for errors.

Hospital culture influences staff behavior and can have a direct impact on the approach with how patients are treated. 

Resource availability influences the quality and safety of patient care. 

Incorrect answers: 3,6

External policies are not an internal factor and are described as environmental features such as doors or furniture placement.

General health trends, such as the use of probiotics or telemedicine, reflect external factors rather than internal clinic processes.

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Nursing Cheat Sheet

Remember the universal patient rights and the ethical principles that should guide every nurse’s practice with this handy cheat sheet.

Master the topic with a unique study combination of a concise summary paired with video lectures. 

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