Blackpool mission to help critically ill children

BLACKPOOL nurses are on a mission to improve critical care for children.

And because of their determination to provide excellent training to health staff, Blackpool is one of the very few areas that cares for children in adult ITU units.

The Practice Development (PD) Team from Paediatrics and Adult Intensive Care, have devised a training programme for looking after critically ill children to help staff feel more comfortable caring for very young patients in a safe, effective and appropriate way on ITU.

Hospitals like Blackpool, without a paediatric ITU, often look after critically ill children in operating theatres until the North West Transport Service (NWTS) can take them to a dedicated children’s hospital.

Steph Holmes with the baby simulation mannequin used for training

But Paediatric PD sister Stephanie Holmes and ITU PD sister Liz Gooderham, believe that looking after a child on ITU allows a more specialist approach and can be a safer and more comfortable environment for both the child and its family.

“For paediatric nurses looking after a critically ill child, ITU is quite an alien place because it is geared to adult care,” Stephanie explained. “And for the ITU nurses the child is alien because they are used to dealing with adults.”

Blackpool is not a specialist centre for children and normally children who are critically ill go to the local tertiary hospitals such as Alder Hey and Manchester.

Stephanie added: “It is rare that we would be giving
ITU care to a child, but it does happen, so the PD team started to provide training around caring for the critically ill child to make nursing staff feel more comfortable looking after a child on ITU.

“Because ITU nurses normally care for adults they have to cope with major differences of anatomy and physiology as well as the different ways that children respond to illness and treatment. A child can deteriorate very quickly and the equipment needed for a child is different to an adult.”

To address child ITU issues, the team have increased the training they provide and use unannounced simulation scenarios, bringing a specialist baby mannequin simulating a critically unwell child arriving in the children’s areas and adult ITU area of the hospital.

Stephanie explained: “The team have to respond immediately and appropriately and we monitor that reaction and the treatment they give. We are then able to debrief the staff and put in additional training where necessary. This is an incredibly safe and effective way of learning for both the paediatric nurses and the ITU staff.”

Their work is now getting wider acclaim and Stephanie and Liz have recently presented their Paediatric ITU project work at a conference organised by NWTS who provide clinical advice on the management of a critically ill child as well as source paediatric ITU beds and provide transport teams when needed.

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