Contrary to what many trauma teams believe, the presence of family members does not impede the care of injured children in the ED, according to a study.
Professional medical societies, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Emergency Physicians, support family presence during resuscitations and invasive procedures. The degree of family member involvement ranges from observation to participation, depending on the comfort level of families and healthcare providers.
"Despite the many documented family and patient benefits and previous studies that highlight the safe practice of family presence, trauma providers remain hesitant to adopt this practice," lead author Karen O’Connell, MD, FAAP, a pediatric emergency medicine attending physician at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., said in a news release.
"A common concern among medical providers is that this practice may hinder patient care, either because parents will actually interfere with treatment or their presence will increase staff stress and thus decrease procedure performance."
The aim of the study was to evaluate the effect of family presence on the trauma teams’ ability to identify and treat injured children during the initial phase of care using the Advanced Trauma Life Support protocol. ATLS is a standard protocol for trauma resuscitation shown to limit human error and improve survival.
Over a four-month period, researchers reviewed recordings of 145 trauma evaluations of patients younger than 16. Of the patients, 86 had family members present.
Investigators compared how long it took the trauma team to perform important components of the medical evaluation (such as assessing the child’s airway, breath sounds, pulse and neurologic disability, and looking for less obvious injuries) when families were present and when they were not. Investigators also compared how frequently elements of a thorough head-to-toe examination were completed.
Results showed no differences in the time it took to complete the initial assessment with and without family members present. For example, the median time to assessing the airway was 0.9 minutes in both groups. In addition, the researchers found no difference in how often components of the head-to-toe exam were completed. The abdomen was examined in 97% of all patients when families were present, for example, and 98% of patients when families were not present.
"Parents are increasingly asking and expecting to be present during their child’s medical treatment, even if it involves invasive procedures," said O’Connell, who also is an assistant professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
"We found that medical teams were able to successfully perform needed evaluation and treatments of injured children both with and without family members present. Our study supports the practice of allowing parents to be present during the treatment of their children, even during potentially painful or invasive procedures."