A.W.O.L. in the Hospital

Ask any new parent to part with her baby in the hospital for even a few moments and it’s likely to set in motion a mental high-speed, Guy Ritchie-like montage, complete with squealing tires, deranged abductors, and shadowy baby-sale rings. (Well, it did for me.)

When it comes to why children go A.W.O.L. in the hospital, however, researchers say we want to look a little closer to home.

It turns out that some parents are taking off the ID bands used to keep track of their child in the hospital.

Photos by Patrice Wendling

A learning collaborative of six hospitals found that the overwhelming (90%) reason for pediatric ID band failure was that the band was simply not in place. The most frequent reasons were that it fell off, was taken off by the parent or the patient, or was put on another object such as a crib,  Dr. Shannon Phillips and her co-authors reported at Pediatric Hospital Medicine 2011.

“A lot of times, the patients had been at the hospital for a long time and the parent would say ‘Everyone knows my child’or ‘I’m always here at the bedside,’ co-author Dr. Michele Saysana explained. “Many of the parents were taking [the ID band] off, but when we educated them on the importance of keeping the ID band on, they had a better understanding.”

In addition to family/patient education, the collaborative staged other interventions including educating front-line staff on the importance of correct ID bands as a safety strategy; conducting audits, often by night nursing administrators; and changing to softer ID bands, including luggage tag-type bands in some NICUs.

“In bigger systems with adults, you must have different bands,” said Dr. Saysana, who directs the pediatric hospitalist program at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. “The one-size-fits-all doesn’t work for the little guys.”

Dr. Michele Saysana

Post-intervention, the collaborative saw a 13% absolute reduction, corresponding to a 77% relative reduction, in pediatric band failures between September 2009 and September 2010. Their goal had been to reduce errors across the collaborative by 50% in 12 months.

The keys to sustaining this kind of success?

“The lessons learned are having leadership be involved, having continuous audits, and just doing education every time you catch something,” she said.

—Patrice Wendling

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Filed under Emergency Medicine, Hospital and Critical Care Medicine, IMNG, Pediatrics

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