Studies in the US have demonstrated that many primary care staff and offices are inadequately prepared for paediatric emergencies. Although the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) recently reaffirmed their “Guidelines for Paediatric Emergency Equipment and Supplies for a Physician’s Office”, no evaluation has been made regarding the impact of publishing these recommendations, or on the state of preparedness for paediatric emergencies in family physician offices.
The aim of this study was to evaluate awareness of and adherence of family physicians in Ontario to the CPS guidelines on preparedness for paediatric emergencies.
We conducted a province-wide, cross-sectional survey of 749 randomly selected family physicians. Participants were asked to complete a 14-question survey regarding clinic characteristics, incidence of paediatric emergencies, and preparedness of the clinic in the case of a paediatric emergency. Ethics approval was obtained from the regional Ethics Review Board.
94 physicians responded to our survey (response rate of 13.1%). 68.1% of respondents reported seeing more than 10 children per week, and 59.6% and had experienced at least one paediatric emergency in the past year. The proportion of physicians reporting paediatric emergencies within the last year increased with the number of children seen - 37.9% of physicians who saw fewer than 10 children per week reported an emergency, compared to 100.0% of those who saw more than 40 children per week.
Only 4.3% respondents reported that they were unaware of the CPS guidelines on paediatric emergency preparedness. Although 85.1% of respondents were aware of the guidelines, only 10.6% of respondents had read them. Of the physicians who were aware of but had not read the guidelines, 2.5% engaged in mock code sessions, 27.8% were up-to-date on Paediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), 1.3% had written protocols outlining safe transport of children to hospitals, and 41.8% stocked half or more of the recommended supplies. In comparison, of the physicians who had read the guidelines, 20.0% engaged in mock code sessions, 50.0% were up-to-date on PALS, 10.0% had written protocols, and 70.0% stocked half or more of the recommended supplies.
A large proportion of respondents had experienced at least one paediatric emergency in the past year, but were overall underprepared. There was a discrepancy between physicians who were aware of the CPS guidelines on emergency preparedness (85.1%), and those who have actually read them (10.6%), though offices with the latter were more adherent to the guidelines’ recommendations. It will be important for CPS to consider how to further advocate for paediatric emergency preparedness in clinics that see children regularly.