top of page

Not on my watch

"Not on my watch" is a nautical phrase stemming from the nature of command on

board a ship. On board a ship the day and night are divided into "watches" - like shifts in the industry. The officers take turns to be "officer of the watch", hence, being on duty and in charge. On larger vessels, it concerns mostly the senior staff, whereas on board smaller vessels junior staff may also get to do this duty. Being a "watch-keeping officer" involves taking responsibility for the whole ship and its crew. Everything that happens "on your watch" is your responsibility. So, if any accident or wrongdoing occurs, it's a bad mark against you even if you didn´t have anything directly to do with it because you were in charge and should have stopped it happening.

A health literacy game changer

Think about it! What a game changer it could be for the advancement of health literacy if we adopted the habit of "Not on my watch". Every time when we discover a barrier for people and patients relating to low health literacy such as communication errors, medication mistakes, lack of time to fully explore the patient´s illness situation, etc., we have the responsibility to get it solved so it does not happen anymore on our watch. Every time we see that solutions presented are not matching the needs of the patients or not facilitated in a timely manner we should do what we can to improve the situation to prevent the same happening in the future. It does not entail any formal titles to adopt this habit. Anyone can pursue this attitude which means everyone can do it. We can all do it and help each other to ensure that failures related to low health literacy are not happening on our watch. 

As health literacy trailblazer ask yourself: what can I do to facilitate an appropriate health literacy response on my watch, in my organization, in my community, in my country?

21 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page