One of the many reasons our family likes to stay out of hospitals is to avoid nosocomial infections. Those are infections you get while you’re in the hospital (not what sent you to the hospital in the first place).
And there are other reasons to steer clear of hospitals. Do you recall the study in the April 2008 issue of Pediatrics that tells us one out of 15 hospitalized kids are harmed by hospital errors, including mix-ups of medicines, bad drug reactions and overdoses?
As parents, we ask of no one in particular and everyone in general: What are we supposed to do? We want to take our sick or hurt children to a place that will, at the bare minimum, do no harm, and in theory, do some good. But the risks associated with a hospital stay are pretty serious.
The National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality worked on a tool that helped investigators get a more accurate count of numbers of children harmed while in the hospital. Prior to the use of this tool, the count of children harmed by hospital error was much lower because errors were supposed to be voluntarily reported, and we now know that wasn’t happening.
I can accept the fact that no one is perfect, but the bar for standard of care is pretty low. As our children’s advocates, we have the responsibility to insist that bar be raised.
Hospital staff: please worry less about political fall-out and more about doing what you have to do to stop mistakes from occurring, or worse, reoccurring. And strive for transparency – it will relieve unnecessary suspicion and mistrust on the part of patients and their families and will serve to keep everyone working toward an error-free environment. Ask questions, involve the family in patient care, stay focused on the tasks at hand, and communicate thoroughly with those taking over your patients when shifts change.
Families: as much as possible, stay with your loved one in the hospital and ask questions about everything that is being done. If something doesn’t seem right, don’t be afraid to ask about it. If someone’s feathers get ruffled because you ask questions about what they’re doing, just remember: better that than a mistake.
By Trish Parnell