As doctors and nurses quietly walked in and out of the colorful rooms at the Steinbrenner Children’s Emergency Room at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, checking on patients and calming families, a phone started ringing. A child had sustained a traumatic injury and the ambulance was en route to St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital. Doctors and nurses jumped into action – the trauma room was quickly set like a stage, with doctors and nurses standing in the room at the ready. After arriving at the hospital, a highly specialized team of caregivers worked quickly to save the young patient’s life. This child survived his life-threatening injuries because he received the right treatment at a pediatric trauma center, but according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), other children are sometimes taken to a treatment center ill-equipped to handle pediatric trauma.
The CDC reports that treatment in a specialized trauma center (as opposed to a regular emergency room) might lower risk of death by 25 percent. These numbers are especially important in children. “The survival rate of children seen in a pediatric trauma facility is twice than if they were seen in a regular emergency trauma room,” said Lorene Rice, RN, manager of the Steinbrenner Children’s Emergency Room at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital.
Not all emergency rooms are equal – some advanced trauma centers specialize in treating children. “You might be in an emergency room that likes to deal with kids but that doesn’t mean they are going to have the capability, training and equipment to properly treat a family or child with a sudden health crisis,” said Dr. Maximo Luque, medical director of the Steinbrenner Children’s Emergency Room at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital. A regular emergency room might not be best equipped to handle severe trauma to children’s bodies, like a gunshot wound or injuries sustained in a car accident, according to Dr. Luque.
“I think the biggest mistake people make is that they think kids are just little adults, which is a totally incorrect statement. They require specialized health care services that pediatric emergency and trauma centers bring.” said Rice. “Our physicians are specifically trained to care for pediatric emergencies, which is something you won’t find in most emergency rooms. This means each child seen here is being evaluated by a specialist, trained to care for a child’s unique needs.”
Another key difference in a pediatric environment is the mental and emotional care children will receive. Kids taken to a pediatric trauma center, even for something as small as stitches, may have access to a variety of interactive activities designed to provide comfort, entertainment and distraction to children and their families. Other support services may also be available, such as access to social workers, pet therapy and even music or art therapy, and siblings of the injured child can also be given extra attention to make sure that they are coping well.
Dr. Luque notes that when an accident happens, your first move can be the most important. When you call 911, you don’t always know where the ambulance will take your child. “One of the most important things you can do to help your family is to have a plan. Know where you want your children to be taken, and write it down along with their allergies and medical history,” said Dr. Luque. Your mind will be racing in an emergency, so having all of your child’s information and having thought through where to take your child will save time and confusion.
When your child suffers severe trauma, like they might have after a car accident, the first hour is the most important, according Dr. Luque. In medicine, it is called the “golden hour,” a time when critical decisions need to be made that can save your child’s life. “Research has shown that if a child receives appropriate treatment with specialized care within that first hour, the chances of survival are increased significantly. They [survival rates] do decrease as the time goes on, so it’s so important to get the specialized treatment and expertise and intervention in that first hour,” said Dr. Luque.
That “golden hour” is critical, and spending time trying to figure out where to take your child, or taking them to the wrong place and having to have them transferred to another facility, can
delay appropriate care, according to Dr. Luque.
Florida Administrative Code states that pediatric trauma alert patients should be transported to the nearest trauma center with pediatric services –even if another trauma center (without pediatric services) is closer. In other words, even though a hospital without pediatric trauma services might be closer, generally Florida code insists that pediatric trauma alert patients should go to the closest trauma center that offers pediatric services!
Amy Gall is a writer from St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital. For other services, like classes available for parents, visit StJoesKids.org.
To download the CDC’s full report, visit www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/ad/ad367.pdf.
For more information visit:
Home Safety – www.cdc.gov/features/homesafety/