Acute Care MedicineCritical CareEmergency MedicinePaediatricsSMACCHow to Spot the Sick Child in the Emergency Department

How to Spot the Sick Child in the Emergency Department

Ffion Davies gives her take on how to spot the sick child in the Emergency Department.

Paediatric medicine is no doubt hard and can at times be scary. There is nothing worse, in Ffion’s opinion, than sending a child home who later represents to the hospital in a worse condition, or even worse, later dies.

So, how does one spot the sick child amongst the droves of children who will present with fever and vomiting.

In this talk, Ffion gives a lesson on how to spot the sick children in the ‘grey’ zone – those that are not clearly sick and not clearly well.

Ffion breaks her thinking into two main areas: physiology and psychology.

Physiology matters. Scrutinising a full set of observations/vitals (in the context of the child’s age) will help avoid the feared crime of discharging a sick child.

Ffion discusses tachypnoea as a prime example of a simple physiological compensation to raise one’s suspicion of serious disease.

Similarly, psychology matters. Ffion talks in depth as to why she considers this to be true.

Talks on Paediatric Emergency Medicine are always popular because Emergency Medicine physicians are insecure about mismanaging a child. Are children precious? Are adults just big children? Therein lies the problem.

Less knowledge, less experience and perhaps less confidence. Compounding this is the complexities of having to deal with the stressed parents when you yourself are stressed because of the situation.

Ffion continues to talk about systems of thinking and decision making. She compares Type 1 thinking which is automatic and instinctive with Type 2 thinking, which is more considered. She explains the risks and benefits of relying more upon Type 2 thinking when considering the sick child in the Emergency Department.

Finally, Ffion concludes by talking about strategies to improve your own management of the paediatric population in the Emergency Department. She discusses improving your knowledge base, using resuscitation aids and checklists and training by using stress inoculation simulations.

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Ffion Davies