If your child is in need of a hospital stay, it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of information, emotions and distractions that can come at you at a feverish pace. But your child’s support system should be consistent and calm — and that starts with you and your child’s entire family.
National Patient Safety Awareness Week (March 13–19) is the perfect time to proactively think about how you could help your child’s hospital stays be as safe as possible. Here are some tips from Children’s Hospitals’ Solutions for Patients Safety to help prepare you, just in case:
Be your child’s patient advocate.
Don’t be shy or feel like you can’t speak up. Ask questions about your child’s care, raise any safety concerns, and/or ask caregivers to double-check their charts before they act. Write down your questions to make sure caregivers address them. Maybe say something like: “Excuse me, I have a few questions before you start. Would you mind answering them, please?”
Remember that you know your child best.
Share unique things about your child with caregivers that may be important for them to know as they provide care — e.g., “He’s really anxious about needles,” or “She likes to hug her favorite bear when she’s scared.”
Wash, wash and wash some more.
Wash your hands and your child’s whenever you enter and leave the hospital, your child’s room, the bathroom and any treatment or testing areas (such as X-ray). And definitely be sure to wash up if you handle any soiled material.
Make sure the caregivers wash, too.
You’re part of your child’s health care team, so don’t be afraid to remind doctors and nurses about washing their hands before working with your child — even if they’re wearing gloves. You could say: “Excuse me. I didn’t see you wash your hands. I’d like to be sure everyone’s hands are clean. Please wash them before caring for my child.”
Stay clean and dry.
If your child has an IV or a wound, make sure to keep the skin around the dressing clean and dry and let your caregiver know right away if it gets wet or loose.
Keep an eye out for red or irritated skin.
If you notice any new redness or irritation, let your child’s caregivers know immediately. Ask what you — and they — can do to prevent harm to the skin.
Know your child’s meds.
Ask for the names of the medications your child is receiving in the hospital and what the medicines are supposed to do. Caregivers should always check your child’s ID band before giving a medication to make sure they’re giving the correct medication. If you don’t see this, ask staff to double-check that the medication is for your child. Maybe say: “Excuse me, I’m not familiar with that medication. Would you please double-check it against my child’s chart and let me know what the medication is for?”
Be prepared when going home.
When your child’s ready to go home from the hospital, make sure you know what medications and/or treatments your child will need once home. Also ask:
- what signs and symptoms you should watch out for that would require a call to your child’s doctor
- if you should call a doctor at the hospital if you have questions (and if so, which one)
- when your child will need a follow-up appointment with a physician (again, ask which one — your child’s regular doctor, a specialist, etc.).