How hospitals can prevent newborn falls

Usually, patient harm prevention programs are focused on the adult patient, like preventing patient falls or wrong-site surgeries. But lately, many hospitals have been focused on preventing a different type of patient harm: newborn accidental injuries.

A report published by the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Advisory found 288 newborn events occurred from July 2004 through December 2013 in Pennsylvania hospitals. Newborn events include family members dropping their newborns after falling asleep, newborns slipping out of family members' arms to the floor and newborns getting bumped on the head while in their families' care.

More than half (55 percent) of the newborn falls in question happened after a family member fell asleep. Two of the events involved a newborn suffocating after their mothers fell asleep while breastfeeding.

Many hospitals encourage mothers and babies to bond as much as possible after birth, by using tactics like "rooming in," or having the baby stay in the mother's room as much as possible, according to a report by The Inquirer. But this practice can lead to sleepy parents, which can then lead to a harm event.

To prevent such events, hospitals must find a balance between advantages gained from rooming in and the safety of a baby. For example, Abington (Pa.) Memorial Hospital implemented new policies for newborns.

"If we see that a mother is groggy and there is no support person around, we take the baby to the nursery," Lisa Kutz-McCauley, the nurse manager of the hospital's mother-baby unit and lactation services, told The Inquirer. "And if the mother is attached to IVs or a Foley catheter, we don't encourage keeping the baby in the room, because if something bad happens, if the baby is choking…the mother can't get up out of bed."

Other tactics to prevent newborn falls include educating new mothers and fathers on newborn safety and making rounds in the early morning hours when newborn fall events are likely to occur.

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