Emergency Medical Services Provider Perspectives on Pediatric Calls: A Qualitative Study
Objective: Previous research indicates that 9-1-1 response to incidents involving children is particularly distressing for emergency medical services (EMS) clinicians. This qualitative study was conducted to increase understanding about the difficulties of responding to pediatric calls and to obtain information about how organizations can better support EMS providers in managing potentially difficult calls. Methods: Paramedics and emergency medical technicians from a single U.S. ambulance service were invited to participate in focus groups about responding to 9-1-1 calls involving pediatric patients. A total of 17 providers from both rural and metro service regions participated in six focus groups held in community meeting spaces. A semi-structured focus group guide was used to explore (1) elements that make pediatric calls difficult, (2) pre-arrival preparation practices, (3) experiences with coping after difficult pediatric calls, and (4) perspectives about offered and desired resources or support. Focus groups were audio recorded and transcripts were analyzed using standard coding, memoing, and content analysis methods in qualitative analysis software (NVivo). Results: Responses about elements that make pediatric calls difficult were organized into the following themes: (1) special social value of children, (2) clinical difficulties with pediatric patients, (3) added acuity to already challenging calls, (4) caregivers as secondary patient, and (5) identifying with patient or patient’s family. Pre-arrival preparation methods included mental or verbal review of hypothetical scenarios and refocusing nerves or emotions back to the technical aspect of the job. Participants described using available resources that largely took the form of social support. Suggestions for additional resources included: increased opportunities for external feedback; more frequent pediatric clinical training; institutionalization of recovery time after difficult calls; and improved storage and labeling of pediatric equipment. Conclusions: This study provides qualitative data about the difficulties of responding to pediatric calls and resources needed to support clinicians. Findings from this study can be used to guide EMS leaders in designing and implementing institutional initiatives to enhance training and support for prehospital clinicians providing care to children.