Parents with sick children often spend round the clock hours in the hospital rooms providing comfort and making sure someone is there to advocate for the young patient. Parents know their children better than anyone in the hospital, and can detect problems at their first sign. Now a new study decidedly shows that parents can have a positive impact on their child’s care.
The study found that parents catch problems doctors overlook like harmful medical mistakes and communication errors between staff. One in ten parents in the study detected medical errors and safety problems that were overlooked by hospital staff.
Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital reviewed cases of 383 children hospitalized in 2013 and 2014 and classified incidents during the hospital stay as medical errors, quality issues, or situations that did not harm the safety of the patient. Researchers asked parents to fill out surveys and note the safety or medical care concerns they had during their child’s hospital stay.
The data showed that 34 parents reported 37 safety incidents, and researchers found that 23 of those incidents were classified as medical mistakes, 9 involved quality issues, and 5 were not mistakes and did not harm the patient.
The study found that 30% of the incidents that harmed young patients were preventable. The preventable errors included delays in receiving pain medication, detecting surgical tools left in the patient after the procedure, and diagnosis of a urinary tract infection.
The parents were also able to identify problems in communication between hospital staff. These include the following examples: when a medication change was left unnoted during the shift change from day to night staff, when other critical medical details were reported under the wrong patient, or when the weight of their child was recorded incorrectly leading to medication errors.
This recent study highlights one particularly vulnerable group of patients: children of non-English speaking parents. Children of parents who do not speak English may be more likely to suffer the results of a medical or communication error without the benefit of a parent advocate.
Hospital staff should work with parents to keep them updated on treatment plans for their children, and should be receptive to concerns parents express regarding the quality of care and potential problems. Educating parents on their child’s condition and treatment plan will help parents provide the best feedback and can improve the outlook of young patients. Older studies have found that problems detected by parents often persist for an average of 10 hours before a change is made.
To stay involved in their child’s care, parents can follow these tips:
Ask questions,: if you don’t understand why something is happening, just ask!
Report problems: don’t be afraid to talk to hospital staff about anything that concerns you about your child’s care and treatment
Educate yourself: learn about the disease, diagnosis process, medical tests, and treatments. Learn specifics about the care your child is receiving and document the diagnosis process and treatment plan
About the Author