Qual Saf Health Care 18:446-449 doi:10.1136/qshc.2007.025023
  • Original research

Involvement of parents in critical incidents in a neonatal–paediatric intensive care unit

  1. B Frey,
  2. J Ersch,
  3. V Bernet,
  4. O Baenziger,
  5. L Enderli,
  6. C Doell
  1. Department of Intensive Care and Neonatology, University Children’s Hospital, Zurich, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Bernhard Frey, Department of Intensive Care and Neonatology, University Children’s Hospital, CH-8032 Zurich, Switzerland; bernhard.frey{at}
  • Accepted 30 August 2008


Background: With more liberal visiting hours in paediatric intensive care practice, parents’ presence at the bedside has increased. Parents may thus become involved in critical incidents as contributors or detectors of critical incidents or they may be affected by critical incidents.

Methods: Voluntary, anonymous, non-punitive critical incident reporting system. Parents’ involvement in critical incidents has been evaluated retrospectively (January 2002 to August 2007). The reports were analysed regarding involvement of parents, age of child, unit (paediatric intensive care or intermediate neonatal nursery), critical incident severity, critical incident category, actual or potential harm to patient and/or parent (minor, moderate, major), delay between the critical incident and its detection, and implemented system changes.

Results: Overall, 2494 critical incidents have been reported. There were 101 critical incidents with parental involvement: parents as contributors to critical incident (18; 0.7%), parents discovering a critical incident (11; 0.4%), parents affected by critical incident (72; 2.9%). The most vulnerable categories regarding contribution and detection were drugs, line/drain disconnection, trauma and hygiene. Ten critical incidents precipitated by parents were of moderate severity and seven of potential major severity (six line/drain disconnections). The majority of the events (six) detected by parents were of potential moderate severity and four were of major severity.

Conclusion: Because of their presence at the bedside, parents in the paediatric intensive care unit are inevitably involved in safety issues. It is not the parents’ duty to guarantee the safety for their children, but parents should be encouraged to report anything that worries them. Only an established safety culture allows parents to articulate their concerns.


  • Funding Competing interests: None.

  • Competing interests None.

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