nurses error leaves mother with wrong baby

Perhaps you’ve seen the TV show, “Switched at Birth.” Like the title suggests, the show follows families whose babies were unknowingly switched at birth. Most of the parents in the show have spent years helping the child grow and develop — only to learn later that the child they gave birth to lives with another set of parents.

Most parents in Pittsburgh hope it is the sort of thing that only happens on television shows. Unfortunately, when nurses make mistakes or when the safeguards set up by hospitals fail, it can happen anywhere.

Recently, something similar happened because of a nursing error.

A nurse brought a baby into a hospital room so the mother could breast feed the baby. However, after the baby had been with the family for a few minutes, the error was discovered. According to a statement released by the hospital, the baby was only with the family for about three minutes.

Although neither the baby nor the family suffered any physical pain, the father was highly distraught by the accident, and the mistake highlights how easily mistakes can happen in the hospital. At the time of the accident, the hospital used two safety checks to help ensure babies were properly identified. In this case, both systems failed. The first system — an ID card that included the baby’s name, the mother’s name and the mother’s room number — contained incorrect information. Once the nurse brought the baby to the mother’s room, she should have checked to ensure the baby’s ID matched the mother’s ID, but she failed to do so.

Since the error, the hospital is working to implement a new safety feature. An audio check beeps if a mother and baby are not compatible. Although the new technology will be a large investment, a hospital spokesperson said it was a needed investment.

In this situation, the families were fortunate that neither baby was injured. However, if the babies were switched, it is not hard to imagine that they could have suffered more serious ramifications, such as failing to receive necessary medication. Hopefully the new technology will help eliminate these preventable and potentially fatal mistakes.

Source: Duluth News Tribune, “Controversy is born when new mom gets wrong baby,” Bill Hanna, Mesabi Daily News, April 19, 2012

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