What makes a pediatric-ready emergency room

Published: Oct. 14, 2023 at 12:49 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Only around 14 percent of the United States emergency departments can be considered certifiably pediatric ready, according to the National Pediatric Readiness Project. Fortunately, we have one of those emergency departments right here in Fairbanks; one of only three in Alaska, and the only one north of Anchorage.

The Fairbanks Memorial Hospital (FMH) says their situation is different from many other general hospitals, which can simply send children across town to a pediatric specialist if the need arises. FMH, however, needs to be able to handle most situations that come through the door.

“So what that looks like for us is, we have appropriately trained our staff in advanced life support for pediatrics. We have the appropriately-sized equipment needed for children from neonates up to 18 years old. We have protocols in place specifically for pediatrics,” Trauma Nurse Coordinator Chloe Conlon explained. “That could be equipment that we use every day such as IV catheters or casting supplies, up to things we may not use as frequently such as things for advanced airways and ventilatory support.”

“Teenagers can have a larger IV because their vein size is bigger and it can house the IV properly, but if you have an infant they have smaller real estate to work with,” said Rachel John, the Inpatient Pediatric Department’s senior manager. “They’re going to need a smaller gauge for access for a peripheral device.”

Fairbanks Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Department has a separate crash cart for responding to pediatric cases. Each drawer of the crash cart contains specialized equipment for a child’s weight category.

“Getting an accurate weight on kids when they come in is the first step,” Conlon said. “If it’s a patient who comes in an ambulance or maybe a traumatic situation we go with Braslow, which is a weight-based length tape that, based on their height, tells us what weight category they would be in so we know exactly what medication dose we should be giving.”

Certified pediatric readiness is linked to 60 percent lower mortality rate in injured children, and 7 percent lower mortality rate in ill children, according to statistics from the National Pediatric Readiness Project.