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Educate Yourself

About your child's diagnosis, tests, and treatment plan.

  • Ask physicians about the specialized training and experience that qualifies them to treat your child's illness.
  • Gather information about your child's condition. Good sources include your child's doctor and nurse, our Children's Library, respected Web sites and support groups.
  • Write down important facts doctors tell you so you can look for additional information later. Ask doctors for written information you can keep.
  • Read and understand all medical forms before signing. If you don't understand, ask your doctor to explain.
  • Make sure you are familiar with the operation of any equipment being used in your child's care.

Ask a family member or friend to be an advocate for your child.

Advocates can ask questions you may not think of while you're under stress and can help remember answers to questions you've asked.

Know the medications your child takes and why.

Medication errors are the most common health care mistakes, and all can be prevented. Here's how:

  • Give your child's doctor a list of his or her current medicines, vitamins, herbs and supplements.
  • Whenever your child gets a new medicine, ask how it will help; about side effects; and if it's safe to take with other medicines, including over-the-counter drugs, vitamins and herbs. Remind your doctor about allergies or reactions your child has had to other medicines.
  • Ask for written information about medicines your child is taking.
 At the Hospital and Clinic
  • Make sure the nurse or doctor checks your child's wristband before giving medications.
  • Tell the nurse or physician if you think your child is about to get the wrong medication. If you don't recognize a medication, verify it's for your child.
  • If your child does not get a medicine at the normal time, tell the nurse or physician.
  • If your child does not feel well after receiving a medicine, tell the nurse or physician.
  • If your child is given an IV, ask the nurse how long before the liquid "runs out." Tell the nurse if it seems to be dripping too fast or too slow.
  • Ask for a copy of the medication administration record that lists all of the drugs your child is taking and check it for accuracy.
  • Before leaving the hospital, make sure you understand all instructions, including those for the medicines your child will need to keep taking.

At the Physician's Office and Pharmacy
  • Make sure you can read the handwriting on the prescription. If you can't, the pharmacist may not be able to, either. Ask to have the prescription printed.
  • Read the label on your prescription. Make sure it is the right medicine and your child's name is on the label.
  • If you're not sure whether your child is supposed to swallow or chew a medicine, or whether you can cut, crush or dissolve a medicine, ask your physician or pharmacist.
  • Your child should take all medicine as prescribed. Do not stop medications without asking your child's physician.
  • Whenever you are in doubt about a medicine, ask your child's physician or pharmacist about it.

Use a health care organization that has been carefully checked out. For example, the Joint Commission visits hospitals to see if they are meeting quality standards.

  • Ask about their experience in treating your child's type of illness. How frequently do they perform the procedure needed and what specialized care do they provide in helping children get well?
  • Before you leave the hospital, ask about follow-up care and make sure that you understand all of the instructions.
  • Go to Quality Check to find out whether your hospital or health care organization is accredited. "Accredited" means that the organization works by rules that ensure patient and quality standards are followed.

Participate in all decisions about your child's treatment.

  • You and your physician should agree on exactly what will be done during each step of your child's care.
  • Know who will be caring for your child, how long the treatment will last and how your child should feel.
  • Seek a second opinion if you are unsure about the nature of your child's illness and the best treatment. The more information you have about options available to you, the more comfortable you will be.
  • Keep copies of your medical records and share them with your health care team. This will give them a more complete picture of your child's health history.