By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

Five expert groups recently released a joint policy statement regarding pediatric readiness in emergency medical services (EMS) systems.

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), in conjunction with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Emergency Nurses Association, the National Association of Emergency Medical Services Physicians, and the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, crafted specific recommendations regarding equipment, personnel, and treatment protocols involved in treating children outside the hospital.

“Effective emergency care often begins outside of the hospital walls,” Jeffrey M. Goodloe, MD, FACEP, immediate past chair of the ACEP EMS committee, said in a statement. “Collaborating to strengthen the infrastructure for out-of-hospital emergency care of children will improve systemwide efforts to treat some of our most vulnerable and precious patients.”

Regarding equipment, the guideline authors stressed the importance of traveling with medical equipment designed especially for pediatric patients, and the need for EMS employees to be trained to use such tools appropriately.

Beyond these fundamentals, the joint statement authors asked EMS professionals to consider communication issues, such as crafting terms that are easy for children and their parents to understand. Also, the recommendations urge EMS to create procedures for addressing non-English speaking patients/family, and how to care for unaccompanied children injured in a disaster.

“Pediatric readiness encompasses the presence of equipment and medications, usage of guidelines and policies, availability of education and training, incorporation of performance improvement practices, and integration of EMS physician medical oversight to equip EMS systems to deliver optimal care to children,” the guideline authors wrote. “It has been shown that emergency departments [EDs] are more prepared to care for children when a pediatric emergency care coordinator is responsible for championing and making recommendations for policies, training, and resources pertinent to the emergency care of children. The specialty of EMS medicine has the potential to derive similar benefits when members of the EMS community are personally invested in pediatric patient care.”

The November 2019 issue of ED Management includes an article about a study that raised serious concerns regarding EDs that are not considered “pediatric ready” to manage emergencies involving children. Investigators say critically ill children brought to these centers are three times more likely to die when compared with children in similar condition who are taken to hospitals with EDs that are well equipped to care for this age group.

For more on pediatric readiness, particularly these recent recommendations for EMS, be sure to check out future issues of Pediatric Emergency Medicine Reports. On a related note, listen to Episode 9 of the Relias Media free podcast series, "Rounds with Relias," which concerns limiting liability risks in pediatric emergency care.