Suggestions on Keeping Your Child Safe in the Hospital

Avoid Medical Errors

Dangerous medical errors are a big problem in our healthcare system, and children aren't immune.

According to a 2008 study by the National Initiative for Children's Health Care Quality, in every 15 hospital visits, one child is harmed by a medication error.

The Joint Commission on Hospital Accreditation has a new program on hospital safety for children. Research shows that keeping a close eye on care and questioning decisions that don't seem quite right really do reduce the risk of dangerous medical errors.

Here are key points for making a hospital visit as safe as it can be:

* If you have to take your child to the emergency room, come prepared. Bring information about medications your child is already taking and about previous medical treatments.

* Ask doctors and nurses how tests and treatments will help your child. Realize that more tests or treatments are not necessarily better.

* If you don't understand what the doctors are saying, ask. This helps them recognize what you need to know to properly care for your child. If you're uncomfortable asking questions, ask a friend or family member to act as your advocate.

* Hand washing is the best way to reduce the risk of infection. If you don't see hospital staff wash their hands before touching your child, ask them if they have. Putting up a handwritten sign saying "Have you washed your hands?" also helps.

* Medication errors are the most common medical mistake. When your child is given medicine, check to make sure that it's the medicine that's been prescribed and that the dosage and frequency are correct. Never assume it must be right just because medical personnel are administering it.

* When your child is discharged, ask questions about what follow-up care is needed. Discharge papers are often confusing and contain both specific information about your child and generic information that may or may not apply to her.

* After a hospital visit, follow up with your own pediatrician.