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Patient Safety in the Hospital for Children


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 his hands after he has used the restroom and before he eats. Remind healthcare providers to wash their hands or wear gloves when they care for your child, if needed.
  • Do not allow sick people to visit. Ask friends and relatives not to visit if they have a cold or other infections. Your child may be on isolation precautions. These are rules that must be followed to stop disease from spreading to or from your child. For example, everyone may have to wear gloves, masks, and gowns around your child.
  • 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. Wash toys, pacifiers, or bottles that drop to the floor. Wash plastic or rubber items using hot water and soap in the sink. Take stuffed animals or objects made of cloth home to wash in the washing machine.

How can I help prevent falls?

  • Provide safe clothing. Give your child slippers with rubber soles. His robe or pajamas should not drag on the ground. This will help prevent slips or trips while he is out of bed. Make sure the bathtub or shower area is covered with a slip-resistant surface.
  • Prevent your child from rolling out of bed. Infants and small children can roll out of bed quickly, even when you are watching them closely. Keep the crib or bed guardrails up at all times while your child is in bed. If you have an infant in an incubator, always shut the sides and portholes (doors) tightly before you walk away from the bedside.
  • Tell your child to always ask for help when he gets out of bed. Falls in the hospital most commonly occur when children try to get out of bed without help. If you are not there to help your child out of bed, tell him to use the call button. This will call a healthcare provider to help him. Make sure the bed is at a low enough level for your child to get out of bed comfortably. Ask a healthcare provider to lower the bed if it is too high.
  • Make a clear path for your child. Use enough overhead lighting to make it easy for your child to see while he moves around his room. If your child wears glasses, have him wear them especially while he is out of bed. Ask a healthcare provider to clean liquid spills or remove objects that may block your child's way. Always stay close to help your child if he is walking with an IV pole or other equipment. Stay very close to your child at all times if he is weak, sleepy, or cannot see very well.

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

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. Your 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 puts it on. Do not let your child remove his ID band, even if he says 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 must take them, and the color and shape of each pill. If a healthcare provider is going to give your child a medicine that you do not know about, ask about it 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 the 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 face or hands. Your child may also have swelling or tingling in his 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 he should take, and how often he 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.