Healthcare News & Insights

Is your hospital ready to treat children in the ED?

Even if your hospital isn’t geared toward treating children, it’s likely your clinicians will see younger patients in emergency situations. That’s why it’s important for your emergency department (ED) to be prepared to treat children – and not all facilities are equipped to do so. 

ThinkstockPhotos-465344455But good news: Hospitals of all types have made improvements in this regard, according to the results of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association – Pediatrics.

Progress made

Historically, hospitals haven’t been able to address children’s needs effectively in the ED. Because most hospitals weren’t prepared to treat emergencies in children, the guidelines for pediatric emergency care were updated in 2009, and a nationwide push for hospitals to meet these guidelines began in 2011.

The new JAMA survey measures how facilities are progressing with improving care for children in the ED, according to an article in Medscape. Along with availability of equipment for children, hospitals were asked about how well they coordinated patient care, their levels of clinical and nursing staff, and any initiatives they were working on to improve patient safety and quality.

Almost 70% of hospitals surveyed have a low or medium volume of children who visit their facilities for treatment. The average hospital treated around 14 children each day. Despite that, over 90% of emergency departments in the facilities surveyed have the staff and resources on hand to treat children if necessary.

High-volume EDs were more likely to be prepared to treat children than the emergency departments in smaller-volume facilities. More high-volume EDs had on-staff physicians who were trained in either emergency medicine or pediatric emergency medicine.

While almost every ED surveyed said that staff knew where the facility’s equipment for children was located, children’s needs aren’t considered as closely in other aspects of hospital operations.

For example, only 45% of hospitals surveyed said that their quality improvement plan addresses children, and about 47% reported that their facility’s disaster plan has provisions specifically for children.

Pediatric considerations may become more important in the ED down the line, however. About half of EDs at hospitals in the study have special physician coordinators who are tasked with improving the department’s pediatric readiness.

What to consider

So while hospitals have made progress with improving how they care for children in the ED, more work needs to be done.

Children have unique needs that usually aren’t the same as those of adults. Younger, smaller and less mature patients need special consideration with everything from receiving the correct medication dosage to understanding why they’re being poked and prodded by several clinicians.

With that in mind, hospitals may want to review some of the policies and procedures in place at facilities that only treat children, including their plans for meeting care quality benchmarks. This will provide excellent guidance for what resources your hospital needs to effectively treat children, whether they’re admitted to the ED or another hospital department.

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