Increasing Paramedics' Skills Can Reduce Emergency Room Visits of Children with Special Needs

From 1997 to 2000, the University of Arizona College of Medicine developed and tested a model program to train paramedics to treat children with special health care needs at the scene instead of transporting them to an emergency facility. At the time the grant was made, such a training program did not exist.

The model program focused on needs including included severe asthma, seizure disorders, and cerebral palsy; children with those conditions may be dependent on oxygen supplementation, infusion pumps, or other technology. Investigators at the university's Arizona Emergency Medicine Research Center (AEMRC) developed the program, which paramedics could complete in a self-instruction course while on duty.

It included:

  1. A self-study manual and companion video.
  2. Eleven integrated practice case scenarios.
  3. A skills evaluation workshop.
  4. A handbook of clinical activities with a supplemental CD.

The educational program, Children with Special Health Care Needs: An EMS Challenge, continues to be available on request. Overall, 318 paramedics in Arizona received training as part of the project.

Key Findings

  • Of 52 Tucson paramedics who received training, more than three quarters (76%) reported that they had responded to a call involving a child with a special need.

  • After training, most of the paramedics were prepared to treat special needs children.

  • Paramedics who trained in the program were significantly more likely to administer advanced life support at the scene than those who did not.

  • Paramedics who were trained apparently made more appropriate decisions about whether to transport children to the hospital.