By Michael Morse
Little fills a firefighter with as much dread as a call for an unresponsive, sick, or injured child. Whether a newborn, infant, toddler, or teen, none of us feel 100 percent comfortable with pediatric patients. The stress involved with pediatric calls cannot be understated. Protocols vary and our experience is limited. Firefighters with kids of their own cannot help thinking of them en route, and childless firefighters are just uncomfortable with the delicate nature of the patient who prompted the call. Parents and caregivers are reluctant to relinquish control of their child to a stranger, even one who they called to help.
It is no wonder most of us dread the pediatric call. Children are not simply little adults, and cannot be treated as such. They can, however be treated properly and effectively by firefighters with little or even no prior field experience. Good training and education are key and periodic review of the training manuals and textbooks at our disposal is essential. The Pedi Bag (you know: the one behind the Maternity Bag and squeezed in next to the Trauma Bag) is a treasure chest of tools and information. Familiarization with the supplies and equipment inside of it, if done on a consistent basis, helps reduce the anxiety of caring for sick and injured children.
We are not pediatricians and nobody is expecting one when they call 911. What they do expect, and rightly so, is a person capable of kindness who can perform CPR, provide first aid, treat allergic reaction, safely extricate, and solve problems. They expect us to be well trained and to bring the right equipment to do the job. There are an infinite number of problems that can and do occur; these are the things that prompt people to call us. We will never have all of the answers. We will, however, know the basics and nothing should stop us from stabilizing, treating and getting a child ready for transport.
Michael Morse is a former captain with the Providence (RI) Fire Department (PFD), an author, and a popular columnist. He served on PFD’s Engine Co. 2., Engine Co. 9, and Ladder Co. 4 for 10 years prior to becoming an EMT-C on Rescue Co 1 and Captain of Rescue Co. 5.