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I have been wanting to write this post for a very long time. My daughter who is two years old has been in the hospital nine times (that’s the inpatient number, that doesn’t include the many emergency room visits) and many of these hospitals have been all over the country.
She has been inpatient in two children’s hospitals in Georgia, one hospital in Boston, and two different hospitals in Colorado. During these hospital stays I have learned so much. So much so, that sometimes I feel like I could write a book!
While I do not plan on writing a book on this topic, I did want to write a blog post about it because I have heard so many hospital horror stories and it makes me so upset. We as parents have many rights given to us when we or our children are in the hospital. While not all hospitals will acknowledge these rights and while every hospital and every state and every country has different standards, these are just few things that you as a parent can request when your child is in the hospital.
Many of these I did not know until we were told or until we figured it out ourselves and that’s why I wrote this so that our experiences could help other parents who are also fighting for their kids in the hospital too.
Hospital Rights for Your Kids
Please keep in mind that this is not legal advice and that each hospital’s rights and rules may vary.
1. You can request to see a social worker.
Hospital social workers are there to help your child and your family through your hospital stay. Some of their jobs are to:
“…help families understand a particular illness, work through the emotions of a diagnosis, and provide counseling. Social workers are can also work in concert with doctors, nurses, and allied health professionals. They help sensitize other health care providers to the social and emotional aspects of a patient’s illness. Hospital social workers use case management skills to help patients and their families address and resolve the social, financial and psychological problems related to their health condition.” – Social Workers in Hospitals
I have loved the social workers in every hospital we have been in. They usually are so sweet and so kind and they are able to help you with resources (local and inside the hospital) that you may or may not know about. If your child is admitted to the hospital make sure they have sent a social worker to talk with you.
2. You can request to talk to a patient advocate.
After my daughter’s two surgeries, the nurse and tech had no idea what meds she was given and if or when she needed more. We were very upset. We requested to talk to the hospital’s patient advocate and filed an official complaint. Medication is not something you mess around with and it was definitely not something that should have happened.
You can also file an official “grievance” which should be investigated by the hospital and the Joint Commission.
3. You can request to stay if you are uncomfortable with your child being sent home.
This is one I definitely wasn’t aware of for awhile. Some hospitals will even ask you if you are comfortable with taking your child home or if you want to stay another night. This can also be used in the ER if they want to send you or your child home, but you think more needs to be done.
You can say something like, “I’m not comfortable leaving yet, is there anything else you can do?” or “I’m not comfortable going home, I think ____ needs to be done first.”
4. You are able to request a different nurse or tech.
This is one we have used several times. We’ve had a couple nurses that were just awful and my husband would go to the desk and ask if we could have a different nurse assigned to us. Usually it’s not a problem and they can switch your nurse with another.
5. You are allowed to have a say in who can and can’t be involved in your child’s care. This includes students and residents and applies to teaching hospitals as well.
A lot of hospitals will have days where students will come by and get practice with doing things in the pediatric floor. For the most part, I have not minded that. Every Tuesday in one hospital the students would come in and they would bathe and play with my daughter. She loved it and I did too!
There have been times however, where we had a resident doing most of my daughter’s care and I didn’t care for the resident. The residents tend to think of themselves as just as good as doctors. Sometimes, yes, that’s the case, but sometimes not. Sometimes care can get confusing when you have several doctors and a resident all telling you different things so having a say in who has access to your child’s care and who doesn’t can be helpful.
6. You can request to move to a different hospital if you are not satisfied with your child’s care.
This is not one that we have had to do (yet), but some hospitals cannot give the kind of care your child may need depending on how serious their condition is. Some hospitals just have horrible care and you can ask to be moved to a different one because of that.
7. You are allowed to request that specific tests to be done.
This is an important one. When my daughter was in the hospital for two weeks in Atlanta and they were trying to figure out what was wrong, I did my own research and requested several tests to be done.
They were doing plenty of tests, but when I researched and saw one of the big things of “Failure to Thrive” can be heart problems, I immediately asked them to do two heart tests. The doctors agreed with my research and did the tests and that gave me the courage to continue to ask for certain tests in the future if I thought it might help tell us what was wrong.
8. Your child has the right to have their pain managed effectively.
Sometimes Tylenol is just not enough – especially after a surgery. If your child is in pain even after getting pain medication. Talk to your child’s doctor about what he can do to help your child and manage their pain more effectively.
9. You can request that the hospital staff or doctor call your child’s pediatrician for a consult.
Your child’s pediatrician knows your child best. They have a history with your child, plus all their records. It can be very important to get the pediatrician’s take on what’s going on in the hospital and what he thinks should be done too.
I have lost track at how many times we have requested this, but it helps each and every time. There’s something about having a doctor who knows your child’s medical past talk to a hospital doctor that changes everything – especially if the hospital tends to not side with parents.
10. You are allowed to have access to all films, records, labs, and reports on your child.
I love this because there are times where doctors and staff make mistakes. They are human and can make errors at times too. When I have access to my child’s lab work I can research what the levels or numbers should be. When I have access to my child’s records I can read over things that the doctor may or may not have already told me. Remember: knowledge is power.
11. You are allowed to participate in rounds or call a team meeting of all doctors and specialists.
Most mornings when we were in the hospital we would have all the doctors and staff on our daughter’s team come in and give us updates, information on tests and labs, and answer any questions we have. This is called “rounds.” It is important that you know that this is your time to ask your questions and say anything you need to say.
We also have requested a team meeting of all the specialists working on our daughter’s case. When we were in Boston, all 14 specialists sat down with us and had a meeting on my daughter’s case. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen and doesn’t happen often!
12. You are allowed to ask for a second opinion from a different doctor in the same hospital.
Just like you are allowed to ask for a different nurse or tech (see number 4.), you can also request to get a second opinion from another doctor in the hospital. This may be difficult when your child is in the ER, and may be easier if your child is inpatient.
Sometimes doctors will do this anyways and will ask a colleague for a second opinion. We’ve had this done several times and it can definitely be confusing if you get two different answers. Just make sure you do your research and go with your gut!
What about YOU? Did you know any of these? Are there any that I missed? What has been your experience when your child is in the hospital?
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