The Role of the Family in Patient Safety Awareness Week

During National Patient Safety Awareness Week (March 2 – 8, 2014), a national learning network of children’s hospitals—Children’s Hospitals’ Solutions for Patient Safety (SPS) and the Children’s Hospital Association—are collaborating to offer safety tips for families to follow when visiting the hospital with their child.


Children don’t have the same guidelines set up as adults to ensure their safety in hospitals. Thus, the critical role the patient families play in making hospital stays as safe as possible for their children has been affirmed again and again. “The family is the most critical part of a patient’s caregiving team, and there are things that families and patients can do to help,” said Michael Fisher, president and CEO, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and chair of SPS. “So, we are encouraging patients and their families to follow some simple, yet potentially life-saving tips during National Patient Safety Awareness Week and each time that they visit a children’s hospital.”

SPS and the Children’s Hospital Association recommend the following actions patient families can take to protect child patients in the hospital and ensure their path to health is smooth:

  • Don’t Be Shy, Be an Advocate: Ask questions about your child’s care, raise safety concerns you have, or ask the caregiver to double check their chart before they act. Write down your questions to make sure the caregiver addresses them. You might say, “Excuse me; I have a few questions before you start treatment, would you mind answering them, please?”
  • Raise Concerns: Share unique things about your child with caregivers that may be important for your child’s overall care (i.e. they have a fear of animals, or only like to eat food cut in small pieces).
  • Wash Your Hands: Wash your hands and your child’s hands when entering and leaving the hospital, your patient room, the bathroom and any treatment rooms (such as x-ray); and be sure to wash if you have handled any soiled material.
  • Be Part of Your Child’s Health Care Team: Do not be afraid to remind doctors and nurses about washing their hands before working with you—even if they are wearing gloves. You might 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.”
  • Know Their Medications: Ask for the names of the medications your child is receiving in the hospital and how it is expected to help your child. Caregivers will check your child’s identification band before giving a medication to make certain the correct medication is being given. If you don’t see this, ask staff to double check that the medication is for your child. You might say, “Excuse me, that medication is not familiar to me. Can you please double check it against my child’s chart?”
  • Prepare for Home: When your child is ready to go home from the hospital, make certain you know what medications and/or treatments your child will need once home. Ask what you should watch for that will require a call to your child’s doctor and which doctor to call if questions come up. Also, ask when your child will need to follow up with a physician appointment.

Visit the National Safety Patient Foundation online resource center to see tips and tools for patients and their families.

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