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Thursday, October 30, 2008

I didn't want to end up with someone else's meal: Colored name tags and hospital bracelets

Nurses at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City were caring for Tom Pineault, age 74, a former merchant seaman, who was recovering from surgery for an ulcerated foot. When they pointed out the yellow name tag on the door of his hospital room, denoting that he was at risk of a fall, he also checked the tag for his name. "I made sure that was me that was in there," he said. "I didn't want to end up with somebody else's meal."

Hospitals are using color-coded name tags and bracelets much more frequently now to avoid errors, by quietly alerting the nurses who see them. The colors differ from hospital to hospital, which may be confusing for nurses who work at different hospitals.

Advice to hospital patients and their advocates: Ask about the meaning of any colored bracelets or name tags you receive. It'll ensure that you get the right meal – and maybe the right meds.

Thanks to Anemona Hartocollis for the article in the Sept 25 issue of the New York Times.

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