A practical approach to empower patients and improve safety: information

Posted by Karen Sonnwald on Mar 17, 2018 10:40:00 AM
4 minute read

This is the fourth article in our series in recognition of Patient Safety Awareness Week.

Any hospital stay is stressful; when the hospitalization is unexpected, it doesn’t leave time for patients or their families to prepare.

Pediatrix Medical Group of Texas – San Antonio recognizes that the parents of premature or critically-ill babies face a unique set of challenges. Not only is admission to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) usually unexpected, but the stress that accompanies the illness of a newborn combined with the emotions of childbirth can be overwhelming. To help parents navigate a baby’s stay in the NICU and beyond, the practice partnered with the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation to develop a NICU Guide for Bedside Advocacy (“Batz Guide”).

“Ultimately, this is about helping parents serve as the best advocates for their child during a very complicated time,” says neonatologist Dr. Katharine Johnson, Pediatrix Medical Group of Texas – San Antonio. “We have always felt strongly that it is not just about getting babies through the (NICU) experience. To thrive and do well, it takes involvement of the family.”

Promoting patient safety

One of the goals of the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation is to ensure that patients and their families have the knowledge they need to promote a safe hospital experience. The Batz Guide does just that.  It gives parents the information they need to be active participants in the medical care of their child, ask the right questions and communicate effectively with health care providers.

Dr. Johnson and her colleagues, Drs. Katherine Brandt and Christine Aune, who make up the practice’s Family-Centered Care Team, all played a critical role in the development of the Batz Guide. Because of their efforts, they are being recognized with the Foundation’s Weezie Angel Hero Award. The award, named after Louise Batz who was known as “Weezie” to friends and family, recognizes individuals in the hospital setting who go above and beyond in the name of patient safety.

A NICU primer for parents

The Batz Guide serves two main purposes. As a “log book,” parents can take notes on a variety of areas, including members of the care team, who has visited the baby and when, procedures performed, medications, vitals and more.

It also serves as a conversation starter, outlining a series of questions to ask the health care team during different parts of the baby’s stay, such as When do nurses change shifts? and If I have a concern about my child’s pain levels, what should I do?  

The guide prompts parents to be on the lookout for certain things that may not be top of mind, such as handwashing (Are health care providers washing their hands?) The guide tells them what they should do if the answer is “no” (Don’t be afraid to stop them… It’s your best chance to avoid infection.) Although a parent may initially feel uncomfortable questioning a provider, by providing a statistic - 90% of all infections come from medical staff not washing their hands - it reinforces how important these observations are and increases the odds that they will speak up.

The Batz Guide covers all aspects of the patient’s journey, including during the baby’s hospital stay, going home and life beyond the NICU. The practice emphasizes that it’s not just about how to handle the hospitalization, but how parents prepare themselves for what comes next. Properly preparing for discharge can help reduce readmission, which is another patient safety goal.

The parent perspective

The Batz Guide was a collaborative effort of Pediatrix Medical Group of Texas – San Antonio and other health care providers, but the parent perspective took priority. The practice’s Family Partnership Councils, an initiative that gives parents a voice and bolsters engagement within hospital NICUs, participated in its development.

The Guides will be available online and distributed in select NICUs in the San Antonio area.

About the practice

For more than 35 years, Pediatrix Medical Group of Texas - San Antonio, an affiliate of MEDNAX, has provided care to premature or critically-ill newborns in San Antonio and the surrounding communities.


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Topics: Patient Safety, Neonatology