Scanning bar codes, double-checking dosages and following procedures all are hallmarks of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital’s approach to patient safety.
But the most important element might be working as partners with patients and families.
The hospital encourages families to play an active role in health care decisions and remain aware of health care practices in order to help prevent errors. National Patient Safety Week is March 12-18.
“We encourage teamwork and open communication between parents and staff to encourage safe care,” said Brigitta Mueller, M.D., vice president of Medical Affairs and chief patient safety officer at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and a faculty member with the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality. The institute helps improve patient safety and medical accuracy through best practices. “Through research, we are discovering that many hospital errors are related to medication.”
To combat that issue, the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Patient Safety and Quality team has put procedures in place to help ensure the right medication is given in the right dosages. “For instance,” Mueller explains, “every patient in our hospital now wears an arm band with a bar code at all times. Every time medication is prescribed, the bar code is checked through the medical records system, then double checked by the pharmacy, then triple checked by the nurse before being given to the child.”
For medication to be used at home, a nurse reviews an instruction sheet with family members before the patient is discharged and asks the family to repeat back the instructions, often even to demonstrate how they would measure out certain medications. This helps assure that the family has fully understood and becomes a true partner in the care of the child.
“It’s teamwork from beginning to end,” she says. “Parental involvement is always encouraged at every step.”
How Parents and Family can Get Involved
“We encourage parents to consider themselves part of the medical team,” said Kathy Renn, A.R.N.P., advanced nurse education specialist for Patient Safety and Quality. “We, the staff, are the medical experts, and you, the parent, are the expert for your child. Be involved, ask questions and speak up. The team should always listen to your concerns.”
It’s all about good communication: with the patient, with the staff and with family members, Renn said.
Here are a few tips for parents to consider whenever they have a child in the hospital:
- Be a good historian. Keep an up-to-date list of your child’s medications/doses, and share all information about allergies, especially any known drug allergies.
- Ask for an ID when someone you don’t know comes to see your child.
- Check with staff, visitors and family members to be sure they have washed their hands.
- Ask why each procedure is being done. Ask what will be done.
- Participate in rounds (when the care team reviews your child’s progress and treatment plan). Learn the medical terms being used.
Most important, ask questions, explains Joe Perno, M.D., medical staff affairs officer. Perno recently did a television segment during which he highlighted patient safety issues. “Ask questions and have the physician explain in terms you can understand,” Perno says. “If a physician is starting a new medication, ask about side effects and what to expect. Be the quarterback for your child’s health care.”
Like a winning football team, at the end of the day, it is all about communication.
“You simply can’t say too much when it comes to the safety of your child,” Renn adds. “Speak up and be vigilant, and know that Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital takes patient safety and quality just as seriously as you do. We take every precaution possible to keep your child safe while in our care.”