Ask virtually any manager of a Labor & Delivery unit if they have infant security procedures and technology in place, and you’re likely to hear a chorus of “Yes, we have that covered.” Trouble is, many haven’t taken a hard look at their infant protection measures for a while.
I’ve worked in the infant protection industry for more than 20 years, and in just the past few, I’ve seen the focus and understanding of the risk landscape change dramatically. Long-held assumptions are crumbling, and a broader, sharper understanding of infant and child security risks is coming into focus.
Here are four areas that have changed over the years – pointing to the need to reevaluate your infant protection:
- Family abductions on the rise. While “Stranger Danger” evokes a powerful emotional response, the reality is that family abductions are a bigger challenge. Some of that can be attributed to the practice of placing babies with their mothers around the clock, and some can be attributed to the opioid crisis and a spike in related custody disputes. Whatever the drivers, protecting against family abductions represents a more nuanced and complex challenge.
- Hospital-wide threats. Labor & Delivery units typically have extensive security procedures and technology tools in place. Unfortunately, a significant proportion of infant abduction attempts originate outside Labor & Delivery. Hospitals have invested heavily to fortify Obstetrics units, but they often have no protection at all in areas outside – even though infants must occasionally travel outside OB for procedures.
- Protecting pediatric patients. Security risks are even greater for pediatric patients than for infants. Why? Because children are at risk of more than just abduction. With these patients, nurses must also mitigate against flight risk and the risk of self-harm. That said, hospitals also need to ensure that infants who are readmitted to the Pediatrics unit – jaundice is among the most common reasons – receive the same standard of care and protection as in the Labor & Delivery unit.
- Over-reliance on status quo. The good news is that the number of abductions has decreased – and that’s a testament to the diligence and vigilance of nurses everywhere. But I fear that success is breeding a sense of complacency. Have you updated policies and procedures to reflect what’s changed at your hospital? Have you considered whether or how your technology could provide broader, campus-wide coverage? When was the last time you drilled using a complex case, such as a suspected family abduction? Any time we’re not honing our skills and staying sharp, over-reliance on status quo becomes our #1 risk.
If any of those challenges strikes a chord with you, share your thoughts in comments or get in touch with me directly. Over the next several months I’ll be discussing the practical steps that hospitals can take to address these issues – and revamp patient security for 2020 and beyond.