Can Something as Simple as a Newborn ID Band Really Make a Difference?

Ellen toured several birthing centers with her expectant daughter and was in awe of the luxury level of accommodations that modern hospitals were providing for soon-to-be new parents. The tour this day was no exception.

Greeted by friendly staff behind the rich cherrywood front desk adorned with blooming double stemmed orchids, it seemed like she was checking into a Ritz rather than a hospital.

The soft, blue-green walls of the birthing rooms were appointed with brushed nickel dimming sconces. A light gray laminate flooring with natural wood grain cheerily reflected the sunshine which streamed in through a large picture window . Walnut wardrobe cabinets, a large flat screen and an executive chair which converted to a sleeper for an overnight guest were attractive and top of the line. The bed was outfitted with thick bedding and the bathroom had a walk-in shower with multiple heads. Ellen also noticed a fresh, plush terry robe hanging on a hook behind the door.

“This is it!” Ellen’s daughter announced at the end of the tour. “This is where I want to have my baby.”

Times had certainly changed since she’d given birth but Ellen loved that her daughter had choices and that hospitals were taking note of modern parents’ ability to make them. This was not the closest hospital to where any of the family lived, but the well thought out and carefully planned facility had definitely made an impact.

Excitement built as the day of birth neared. When the call came, Ellen raced to the hospital to meet her precious new grandson. It was a moment of pure joy for the entire family as the new baby was introduced to each member. Everything was perfect until Ellen peeled back the baby’s swaddle. Much to her surprise, a long hard plastic strip popped out to poke her in the face. The baby’s little wrist was bound tightly with a rigid identification band, secured by a metal clasp and obviously oversized for a newborn because the sharp-edged tail of the band that poked her was almost as long as the baby’s arm! She then saw the same thing binding the baby’s ankle. Horrified, Ellen discovered little nicks and scrapes in the newborn’s delicate skin all around the banding.

“My first reaction was how uncomfortable the ID band had to be for him, then I thought, what about these cuts on his skin? Couldn’t these little wounds be entryways for infection?”

When Ellen raised her concern with hospital staff, she was told, “It’s just what we use for all our patients.”

Her daughter and son-in-law complained too, “When I was handed my baby to breastfeed, I had to turn him around so his band wouldn’t cut me! I seriously couldn’t believe what they were using to ID my baby. I was surrounded by all the modern amenities of luxury, but this band just seemed so antiquated and didn’t fit at all with the level of comfort that the birthing center was trying to provide. Why were they making me so comfortable but not my baby?”

Hospital ID bands are an often overlooked piece of the puzzle when it comes to providing the safest and most comfortable experience for newborns and their parents in birthing centers.

Patient safety is a priority of The Joint Commission. Positive patient identification a must. Infection prevention a top goal. Could the raw nicks and scrapes on a baby’s skin from an inferior ID band be a concern as a possible entryway for pathogens? Why are hospitals using the same ID band for all patients? These are just a few of the questions that can and should be asked as hospitals seek to mitigate risk and create a proactive culture of safety.

Patient centered care is the aggregate of many and varied elements. From the simplest and most obvious to the hidden and complex, every process, every device and every ‘band’ aid must be questioned, tested and evaluated as a contribution to the greater good of the patient.

Recognizing that new parents can now make choices as to where to give birth, hospitals need to address the whole package. And don’t forget the ID bands!

Victoria Sheaffer who along with her friend Ellen founded NSN-BabySoft ID Bands because they believe that every baby deserves a safer, softer entry into the world! Victoria can be reached at ​vsheaffer@northstarnewborns.com

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