Pediatric Death in the Field

Resources for EMS Professionals

Dealing with the death of a child is extremely difficult for many, and for some it can be career ending. This is in part because the training for these emotional events has mostly missed the mark due to a mischaracterization of the needs of both the family and the healthcare professionals who treat these children during their final moments.

Our mission is to equip the front line workforce with the tools and training to properly address the role of EMS and ED clinicians related to pediatric bereavement.  The overarching goal is to ensure a healthy outcome for  both the families and the healthcare professionals who treat them.

When working on the front line of emergency medicine, whether that is in the ED or as an EMS clinician, one thing is inevitable, loss. Losing a patient is the job’s cruelest lesson, and one that the classroom can never fully prepare you for. Add to this emotion and stress, a grieving family who may express a wide variety of emotions as they look for answers. Quite frankly, it feels overwhelming, and this alone is enough to make most healthcare professionals feel that there is nothing they can do to make it better.

While a call involving a deceased pediatric patient is a pain we feel deep in our hearts, there are things we can learn to do to get ourselves, and the grieving families, to closure. We should not avoid that difficult walk over to their loved ones, either on scene or in the emergency department. When the family’s emotion suggests that they just want to be left alone, or “they are too angry for me to talk to them,” it’s easy to convince yourself to “just leave and let them be,” and walk away.  Yet we now know this is not the right answer, even though it may feel right, and honestly — easier — at that moment.

After interviewing EMS clinicians, ED physicians, trauma surgeons, and chaplains, we have created a space full of resources to get you to start thinking differently about this topic. Walk through these videos and papers at your own pace, and take this journey on your own, or in concert with your department or organization. Please know that we created this space knowing that individuals and organizations are unique and will handle this topic differently. The one thing that doesn’t change however, is that we must do the right thing, because the right thing leads to healing, and its benefits are life saving.

Dame Cicely Saunders, an English nurse and founder of the modern hospice movement once said, “How people die remains in the memory of those who live on.” What we take from this quote is that It takes a village to help the families of those who have lost a child. The principles are simple and are rooted in human decency. So come in. Talk. Listen. Share. And help us change the healthcare provider narrative after a child dies.

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DISCLAIMER: Pediatric Emergency Standards Inc. does not make clinical or medical decisions.  The Handtevy System is intended to be utilized as a guide only.  Provider's experience and training should be the final determinant of clinical treatment decisions.