As caregivers, it is vital that we listen to our parents, not our biological parents, but those of our pediatric patients, and especially so with children with special needs.
Assessing the pediatric patient can be one of the most challenging and stressful tasks for pre-hospital providers. Overall, of all the calls EMS providers respond to, pediatric patients make up about 1 percent of run volume in most EMS systems. With this lack of exposure, we have less opportunity to remain proficient in pediatric care. Now compound this premise with the challenge of evaluating and caring for a child with a rare disorder or complex condition. Here’s where parents can be lifesavers.
We can substantially decrease our stress in assessing pediatric patients by not forgetting the wealth of information parents can provide regarding their child’s chronic illness, rare disorder, congenital anomalies or unique needs. These parents are generally very engaged, effective caregivers. We certainly can draw from their experience and expertise. While we are responsible for the objective primary and secondary assessment, along with appropriate clinical interventions, parents can connect the dots of the child’s condition to the much bigger picture of extensive history, current interventions and comprehensive care required for their child. Their advocacy and individualized care plans help us perform more appropriately.
We recently transported 13-year-old Peter Flom, along with his mother, to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin for evaluation of a closed head injury. While on vacation in Waupaca, he was running, slipped on a wet dock and struck his head. Peter is very athletic. He is a great swimmer. Peter is autistic. Nobody knows or loves Peter more than his mother does. It was our privilege to allow her to accompany him in the aircraft en route to Milwaukee. While wrestling with Peter in attempt to attach our cardiac monitor leads, she advised us that Peter would accept most treatments, like blood draws and IVs, but he did not like adhesive things put on him.
Simple enough. We kept our fingers on his pulse and used the pulse oximeter to watch his heart rate. Such useful information prevented any more nurse-patient tangles. We were so moved and inspired by her relationship with her son, her effectiveness, and her knowledge regarding such a complicated communicative and disintegrative disorder. We were the students on board that day. Fortunately, Peter was discharged home days later with no sequelae. He is back to swimming, running and ice skating, doing what he loves best. While we must always seek avenues to maintain pediatrics proficiency, we performed best by being good listeners in this situation. Peter and his mother will help us provide much better non-judgmental care in the future.
- Autism is 10 times more common today than in the 1980s.
- Autism affects 1 in 110 children, and 1 in 70 boys.Autism is the fastest-growing disability.
- More children will be diagnosed this year with autism than AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined.
- Patients and families need all the non-judgmental help they can get from service providers.
By Pam Witt-Hillen, ThedaStar Flight Nurse