EMS and children make for an uneasy combination. The diversity children present, in ages and needs, can make caring for them difficult, and the situation can be even more complicated by an inability to communicate effectively with a younger child. The anxiety that comes with an injured or ill child tends to be “infectious” and causes everyone on the scene to be on edge.
This is normal. After all, our children are our future. We understand and frequently empathize with a parent when their child is ill or injured. As a parent and a paramedic, I can tell you that having a medical emergency involving a child is incredibly frightening. Regardless of your knowledge and experience, the care of a child during an emergency is challenging.
What can you do to improve your skills and reduce the fear factor? As a provider, there are several strategies you can try and, hopefully, your employer will support these efforts.
Consider setting up an opportunity to discuss internships with pediatric physicians in your area. Being able to work a day a month with a busy pediatrician’s office can do wonders for your level of comfort in working with children. This sort of internship requires work to establish, but is worth the effort.
In addition, make sure you have taken pediatric-specific courses such as PALS, APLS, and so forth. These courses do wonders for improving your critical care skills with children.
Equipment for children is important as well. Using a standardized sizing system for children such as the Broslow system, is well worth the investment by your service.
Just as there are steps we can take as individuals, our communities need to prepare for caring for children. Since children are 25 percent of the U.S. population, they are likely to be involved when disasters occur. The issues we face while managing children during emergencies are not only medical. As such, they present unique challenges to most communities. Following are several suggestions for improving your community preparedness around children:
- Ensure your emergency management folks are including child specialists on their planning teams.
- When you run a mass casualty exercise, make certain to include real children in the exercise.
- Work with your school system to establish a disaster awareness program for children.
- Ensure you have the right amount of pediatric-specific equipment on your MCI trailer or truck to treat your pediatric population.
- Identify the limitations your community faces as it relates to evacuation of the critical child.
If you need more ideas, consider downloading the National Commission on Children and Disasters final report to the President and Congress. It offers numerous valuable suggestions.