Hospitals Assess ER Readiness To Treat Children

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - If your child needed emergency medical attention, you'd want to know the local emergency room was ready and able to provide that care.

A nationwide assessment is underway to see if emergency rooms are making the grade.

Topeka's Stormont-Vail HealthCare gave 13 News a look at what the assessment involves, measures specific to children already in place, and how they're using the assessment to identify ways to improve their care.

One example - colorful drawers on equipment carts. They aren't just to make the carts more festive to a child's eyes. Hospital ERs use them to ensure the smallest emergency patients get the right care.

Angela Gamber, Stormont's administrative director for emergency and trauma, says it is a method of color coding. In emergency situations where there is not time to immediately weigh a child, a long, fold-out paper can be laid on the treatment bed beside a child, with one end at the top of their head. The treatment team will not the color on the paper where the child's feet touch - it contains the proper medication dosages and equipment sizes for a child of that size. The color on the paper will correspond with the color on the drawer which contains the equipment in that size, including masks, breathing tubes, iv equipment and other items.

Having all the various sizes of equipment on hand is one part of the Pediatric Readiness Assessment. Underway nationwide, it looks at how prepared hospitals are to handle pediatric emergencies. Gamber says it is an easy way for a facility to look at itself, get an honest score, then look at areas to improve.

Gamber says equipment is a big part of it because of how rapidly children are growing and developing. Tiny babies through school age children and into the teen years all need different sizes of equipment for appropriate treatment. With medications, even a small difference in dosage can have a big reaction.

The color coding chart helps make it easier for the treatment team, which is important, Gamber says, because the stress of treating a small child can be difficult on a medical team.

That's why the readiness assessment also looks at staff training specific to pediatric patients. Outcomes and quality initiatives also are addressed.

The overall national average so far on the assessment is 70. Hospitals have through August to complete it. When hospitals last did them 10 years ago, the national average score was 55.

The average for facilities the size of Stormont is 84. Gamber says Stormont scored an 88.

But the goal, she says, is a perfect 100 - and she's already making plans to make up the lost points, some of which is as simple as expanding available equipment sizes and changing how some data is entered into electronic records.

"As a nurse and as a parent, I want to walk away knowing this place is ready to take of your children," Gamber said.