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Safety, Infection Prevention & Quality Improvement

Keeping your child safe is important to everyone at SickKids. Children stay safer when their parents are informed and involved in their care. Speak up, ask questions and talk to your health-care team. Working together is the best way to keep your child safe.

Follow the safety information and tips on this page and talk to your doctor or nurse if you have any questions or concerns about any safety issues while you are at SickKids.

Here you'll find more information on infection prevention, patient safety, our Caring Safely initiative, our Comfort Promise and how we're Choosing Wisely.

Infection Prevention and Control

The Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) Program at SickKids is in place to protect patients, families, visitors, and staff from harm related to preventable infections.

What should I do if my child or I are feeling sick?

If you are not feeling well or have any symptoms, please make every effort to find someone else who can bring your child to the hospital.

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, please contact your clinic or health-care provider before coming to the hospital:

  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Cough
  • Fever and/or chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Decrease or loss of taste or smell
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Masking guidelines

Masking is optional at SickKids for patients, families, and staff members, and anyone may wear a mask at any time if they choose. Here are the masking guidelines at SickKids:

  • Masks will continue to be available at the main entrances of the hospital and within each department or clinical area.
  • There may be times masks will need to be worn by staff and caregivers (e.g., patients in isolation).
  • Wearing a mask is a personal choice and does not mean the person wearing a mask is sick.
  • Caregivers, visitors, and siblings experiencing viral symptoms are asked to avoid coming to SickKids if they don’t need to be at the hospital.
  • If a caregiver is unwell and their presence is essential to their child’s care, or they’re not able to arrange for an alternative caregiver, they are asked to stay in their child’s room as much as possible and wear a mask outside the room.

Other visitors

We ask that only healthy visitors come to SickKids. Please see our visiting hours and guidelines for more information.

How can I help prevent infections from spreading?

Handwashing is the best way to prevent germs from spreading from one person to another.

Wash your hands with hand sanitizer or soap and water:

  • When you enter and leave the hospital
  • When you enter and leave a patient room
  • After using the washroom
  • Before eating
  • After you cough or sneeze into your hands

Learn more about hand hygiene on AboutKidsHealth. Thank you for helping to keep our community healthy!

We are committed to providing accessible formats to our visitors as part of our commitment to Accessibility. Captions are available on this video through YouTube.

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Patient Safety

SickKids is a leading children’s hospital both within Canada and internationally, with a strong track record in patient safety. Ensuring the safety of patients, their families and our staff is a top priority at SickKids.

There have been steady improvements in safety at SickKids as a result of a variety of focused programs and our dedicated team. The Caring Safely initiative further confirmed SickKids’ perpetual commitment to pursuing zero preventable harm.

As a parent or guardian, we recognize the important role you play as a member of your child’s health-care team. We encourage you to be involved in your child’s care and to partner with us.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Share your information with us
  • Ask questions
  • Learn more about your child’s condition
  • Let us know if there’s a problem

Please expand the sections below for more important information.

Speak up and ask questions. You know your child best. Give your health-care team an up-to-date description of your child’s health.

  • Tell us about any treatments or surgeries by any other doctors/dentists or health-care professionals, including naturopaths or herbalists.
  • Tell us about your child’s special physical, emotional or equipment needs or about any special aids like glasses or hearing aids.
  • Share unique things about your child with caregivers that may be important for your child’s overall care (e.g. if they dislike loud noises or bright lights).
  • Tell us if there are any changes in your child’s condition that concern you. You may notice things the health-care team doesn’t.

To keep your child safe it is important that you understand their condition, treatment and how to help care for them.

  • Ask your health-care provider to explain things in a different way if you don’t understand. Never be embarrassed to ask any questions.
  • Ask for an interpreter if you are more comfortable in a language other than English.
  • Ask for written information about your child’s condition so that you can read it when you are ready.

Clean your hands using the hand sanitizer pumps located around the hospital or with soap and water:

  • Before entering your child’s room
  • Before leaving your child’s room
  • After changing diapers or helping your child in the washroom
  • Before eating or feeding your child (includes tube feeding)

If you or other visitors come to the hospital when you are sick you may pass on germs to staff or patients. Do not come to the hospital if you are experiencing: fever, vomiting, diarrhea, rash or coughing/sneezing

Staff, volunteers, patients and parents at SickKids should wear identification at all times while on hospital property.

  • Ensure your child is wearing an ID bracelet with the correct name and information written on it.
  • Check for a blue and white ID badge on staff members and volunteers interacting with your child.
  • Wear your parent ID badge at all times so staff and security know who you are.
  • Tell any SickKids staff member or dial the Protection Services hotline (416-813-7122 from your cell or 7122 from any SickKids in-house phone) to report any suspicious people or activities.

Allergies can be very dangerous for your child or for other children.

  • Tell your health-care team about your child’s food, medication and latex allergies.
  • Make sure your child has proper identification, including a hospital-issued bracelet and a MedicAlert bracelet to alert staff to the allergy.
  • Do not bring latex balloons, foods with nuts or fresh flowers or plants to the hospital.
  • Be aware that SickKids is not a peanut-free environment.

Your health-care team will talk to you about when and how your child will be discharged home or transferred to another hospital.

  • Ask what medications and equipment your child will need at home.
  • Make sure you understand what to watch for and who to contact if you have a problem at home. For all emergencies, call 911.
  • Bring your child’s car seat with you when you come to take them home. Children less than 4 feet 9 inches tall are required by law to ride in a booster seat or car seat.
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Hand hygiene

The best way to prevent transmission of disease is good hand hygiene. Learn about proper hand hygiene and how to teach it to your children.

Preventing pressure ulcers

Pressure ulcers are sores that are a result of constant pressure on your child’s skin. They are also known as bedsores or pressure sores.

IV line care

IV lines can be an important part of your child's care. Learn about the importance of IV-line care and keeping your child safe.

Safe sleep

Research shows that the safest way for a baby to sleep is in a crib on their back. Review this safe sleep guide for infants.

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Speak up

We encourage you to talk to us and ask us questions. Working together with respect and understanding is the best way to keep your child safe.

Preventing falls

Medication use, a new environment, and your child’s medical condition may make them more likely to fall while in hospital.

Child and family involvement in nursing shift handover

Nursing shift handover is the time when outgoing nurses share the most up-to-date information about their patients with incoming nurses.

SickKids wants to make sure that patients and families are partners in care. While nursing shift handover usually takes place at the nursing station, we now offer patients and families the opportunity to have nursing shift handover take place at the bedside, with their participation.

Nursing shift handover happens every morning and evening and usually lasts 5 minutes. Your nurse will let you know when nursing shift handover happens on this unit.

Please note, nursing shift handover at the bedside does not replace ongoing conversations with the nurse, doctor and health-care team.

No. It is your choice to participate in nursing shift handover. For example, some may prefer to sleep or may not be present at the time of handover. Your nurse will ask you if you will be available and plan to participate in advance of every nursing
shift handover. Even if you do not participate in the discussion, your nurse will check the patient and bedside equipment at each nursing shift handover.

Enhances partnership. Nursing shift handover at the bedside enhances partnership and promotes communication between patients, families and nurses.

Enhances patient safety. Nursing shift handover at the bedside helps ensure that important and correct information about the plan of care is shared and understood.

Gets patients and families involved in care at handover. Patients and families are encouraged to add or clarify health information provided during nursing shift handover.

Is another opportunity to ask questions. Your input during nursing shift handover is valued. If there is a question or concern that cannot be answered during handover, the incoming nurse can come back after nursing shift handover to spend more time answering any questions.

  1. Two nurses come to the bedside.
  2. The nurses will ask you if you want any family or visitors at the bedside to stay during nursing shift handover.
  3. Nurses will then begin discussing the plan of care.

  • Listen to get complete information about treatment plans and care.
  • Share information about your care, as well as what matters most to you over the next shift.
  • Ask for clarification if there is something you did not understand or if any of the information shared is confusing.

We believe that child and family involvement in nursing shift handover is an important part of providing excellent child and family-centred care. We will ask for your permission before we go ahead with nursing shift handover at the bedside. Please tell us if you are not comfortable with nursing shift handover at bedside or if there is certain information that you prefer not to share if others are around.

You know best! If something doesn’t seem right or is not clear to you, please tell us.

Patient safety indicators

At SickKids, the safety of patients, staff and visitors is a priority. We believe that reporting on patient safety indicators is an important and positive step in creating a better SickKids and strengthens confidence in our hospitals.

View our Patient Safety Indicators

Caring Safely

As a co-founder of Caring Safely in 2015, SickKids is part of a larger network across the United States and Canada working to further strengthen our collective commitment to safety. Objectives within our strategic plan support our relentless focus and attention to safety as we aim to achieve our overarching goal – to eliminate preventable harm.

A national study led by SickKids in 2012 confirmed that preventable harm is an issue in paediatrics. Across Canada, three to four per cent of children admitted to hospital are subject to significant preventable harm.

Caring Safely has accelerated our progress toward eliminating preventable harm by setting ambitious targets, leveraging transparency and comparative data and introducing principles and practices from ultra-safe industries outside of health care, known as high reliability organizations. And the results to date show SickKids is becoming a safer place for our community of patients, families, staff, and volunteers because of Caring Safely.

We are committed to providing accessible formats as part of our commitment to Accessibility. Captions are available on this video through YouTube.

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Children's Hospitals Solutions for Patient Safety

By partnering with Children’s Hospitals Solutions for Patient Safety (SPS), a network of over 140 children’s hospitals, we are learning from organizations that are working towards the same goal, building on one another’s successes and confidence. Since becoming the first Canadian member of SPS, an additional seven Canadian hospitals have joined, dramatically strengthening collaboration on paediatric safety across Canada.

We are proud of our achievements but know we can, and must, continue to improve.

  • Reductions in hospital acquired conditions (HACs), particularly our highest-frequency HACs: unplanned extubation, central line associated bloodstream infections, and surgical site infections
  • Achieved a substantial reduction in the serious safety event rate, and aiming to get back to our previous best performance that was on par with the best available external benchmarks
  • Improvements to our safety culture with continued focus on Caring Safely error prevention education, mandatory for all staff, leadership modules, and safety coaching
  • Reduced staff lost-time injuries by 10 per cent over three years

  1. Reduce the serious safety event rate (SSER) to 0.2 events per 10,000 adjusted patient days
  2. Reduce composite hospital acquired condition (HAC) rate by 20 per cent
  3. Reduce staff days away, restricted or transferred (DART) by 10 per cent

Comfort Promise

SickKids is making a promise to do everything we can to reduce needle poke pain in our patients by implementing a hospital-wide initiative called Comfort Promise. All patients will be offered four pain management techniques to prevent and minimize needle-poke pain: comforting position, distraction, sucrose and numbing cream.

Choosing Wisely

It has been estimated that, in North America, 20 to 30 per cent of the tests and therapies currently requested and prescribed are likely unnecessary, add no value to care, and may even cause harm. That's why SickKids has participated in Choosing Wisely Canada, a campaign to help clinicians and patients engage in conversations about unnecessary tests and treatments, since 2016.

SickKids has produced recommendations that are specific to paediatric hospital patients. The recommendations developed are based on best-practices and evidence of overuse or potential harm to patients.

Learn more about Choosing Wisely at SickKids

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