An opportunity to save young lives

News / Pediatric Care
By John Pereira

Pediatric Early Warning System to help recognize early signs of trouble in young patients

It’s a parent’s worst nightmare; their child is in hospital and suffers a heart attack or stops breathing. A new initiative being rolled out in Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) is looking to avoid that by detecting early warning signs of decline in young patients sooner than ever before.

It’s called the Bedside Pediatric Early Warning System (PEWS) and it’s a documentation system to help identify children at risk and provide care teams with the next steps to hopefully stop the patient’s condition from deteriorating.

Children are measured in seven areas including heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure. Each child is then given a Bedside PEWS score based on those measurements.

“Care teams can then reference the score in the PEWS manual, which would tell them the exact next steps on how to best care for their patient,” says Kerri-Lee Bisonette, Manager of Pediatrics. “Research has shown this system is able to identify children at risk of cardiac arrest with at least one hour notice before it actually takes place.”

PEWS was developed by SickKids in 2014 and is in now use in a handful of other hospitals in Canada. KHSC is the first in our region to implement the PEWS system.

“We’re an early adopter because we have seen the value for our patients,” says Bisonette. “It’s obviously very important to help any child avoid a critical health care event. Our teams have worked very hard to roll this system out here at KHSC.”

While the system is currently only in place in the inpatient pediatric unit on Kidd 10 at our KGH site, the intention is to soon begin using the system in all areas of the hospital that see Pediatric patients, such as the Emergency Department, Urgent Care Centre and the pediatric clinics at the Hotel Dieu Hospital site.

“It’s important that care teams can access this scoring system in other areas of the hospital because pediatric patients are so much different than our adult patient population,” says Dr. Bob Connelly, Program Medical Director of Pediatrics. “A specific heartbeat or breathing rate in an adult patient may be completely normal, but in a young child could be a real warning sign of something serious to come.”

It took about 10 months of hard work by a team made up of nurses, residents, physicians, allied health-care providers and others to customize the system to meet the specific needs of patients here in Kingston.

“Our team was very passionate and dedicated to implement this system because we know it can make a real impact for our patients,” says Bisonette. “Research shows that only 27 per cent of pediatric patients survive an in hospital cardiac arrest. We all recognized that there’s a real opportunity to make improvements to help save young lives.”