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Patient Safety in the Hospital for Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.

Why do I need to know about patient safety in the hospital?

Patient safety helps prevent injury, errors, and the spread of germs. You can help create a safe environment for your child in the hospital by working together with healthcare providers.

How can I help control the spread of germs?

  • Wash your and your child's hands often. Good handwashing will help prevent the spread of germs that cause infection or that can make your child's condition worse. Wash your hands after you have changed your child's diaper. Have your child wash hands after using the restroom and before eating. Remind healthcare providers to wash their hands or wear gloves when they care for your child, if needed.
  • Reduce the spread of germs by not allowing sick people to visit. Ask friends and relatives not to visit if they have a cold or other infections. Do not visit your child if you have a cold or other infections. Have another family member stay with your child if you are sick. Healthcare providers will keep you informed by phone or video.
  • Ask about vaccines if your child has diabetes or heart, lung, kidney, or other major organ problems. Your child's healthcare provider may want to give your child a flu or pneumonia vaccine.
  • Help keep your child's environment clean. Let healthcare providers know if your child's bedding, gown, or other linens are dirty. They will change the bed or give your child a clean gown or towel.

How can I help prevent falls?

  • Provide safe clothing. Give your child slippers with rubber soles. His or her robe or pajamas should not drag on the ground. This will help prevent slips or trips while he or she is out of bed.
  • Keep side rails up at all times while your child is in a crib or bed. Infants and small children can roll out of bed quickly, even when you are watching them closely. Make sure the bed is in the lowest position and all side rails are up if you have to walk away.
  • Make a clear path for your child. Use enough overhead lighting to make it easy for your child to see while he or she moves around the room. If your child wears glasses, have him or her wear them, especially while out of bed. Clean spills right away. Ask for help from healthcare providers if the spill is large. Always stay close to help your child if he or she is walking with an IV pole or other equipment. Stay very close to your child at all times if he or she is weak, sleepy, or cannot see very well.

How can I improve communication with my child's healthcare providers?

  • Tell healthcare providers about your child's allergies. Always tell healthcare providers if your child is allergic to any medicines or foods, or has any other types of allergies.
  • Clearly understand your child's condition. If you have any questions about your child's health problems or care, ask a healthcare provider. Ask for an interpreter if needed. If a healthcare provider is not available, write down your questions so you will not forget them. If you do not understand something or feel uncomfortable about your child's care, tell the healthcare provider. You may also talk to a different healthcare provider about your child's condition and care.
  • Let healthcare providers know when you are leaving the hospital. If your child is in a hospital room, tell your child's healthcare provider whenever you leave to go home. Healthcare providers will check on your child often while you are gone. Ask a family member to stay with your child while you are gone, if possible.

How can I help decrease medication errors?

  • Your child should always wear an identification (ID) band. Make sure all the information on your child's ID band is correct before he or she puts it on. Do not let your child remove the ID band, even if it is uncomfortable. Ask your child's healthcare provider to loosen the band or make it more comfortable while your child is in the hospital.
  • Ask healthcare providers about your child's medicines. Learn when and why he or she must take them, and the color and shape of each pill. Ask about any medicine you do not know before it is given.
  • Do not give your child medicines without asking your child's healthcare provider first. Do not bring in medicines from home unless your child's healthcare provider asks you to. These include outpatient prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, herbs, or food supplements.
  • Tell healthcare providers if you think there are problems with a medicine. Tell your child's healthcare providers if you think a medicine is not helping or is causing side effects. Tell healthcare providers right away if you think your child is having an allergic reaction to a medicine. Signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction include itching or hives, and swelling in his or her face or hands. Your child may also have swelling or tingling in his or her mouth or throat, chest tightness, and trouble breathing.

What should I know about my child's treatments and equipment?

  • Lock all equipment wheels. Make sure wheelchair wheels are locked before your child sits in it. Lock all bed wheels to keep the bed from sliding while your child gets in or out.
  • Ask healthcare providers about the equipment attached to your child. Ask why each piece of equipment is attached to your child and how it should work. Ask about equipment alarms and what you should do if the alarm sounds.
  • Ask healthcare providers about your child's treatments. Ask why the treatment is being given, how you can help, and what to expect after it is over. You can help healthcare providers know if the treatment is helping or if there are problems after the treatment. Tell healthcare providers if your child's tubes or dressings become loose or wet. Healthcare providers will check if your child's IV, catheter, or other tubes are still in the right place. They may need to change a loose or wet dressing.

What should I do before my child leaves the hospital?

  • Clearly understand all discharge instructions. Ask for a telephone number for someone you can call with questions, or to get help. Ask about the activities your child can and cannot do at home.
  • Get your child's prescriptions filled as soon as possible. Know what each medicine is for, how much your child should take, and how often he or she should take it. Ask for written information about the medicine. Ask your pharmacist for a medicine measuring spoon if your child needs to take liquid medicine. Do not use a kitchen spoon to measure liquid medicines.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.