Emergency Medical Services Clinicians' Perspectives on Pediatric Non-Transport

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Prehospital emergency care




OBJECTIVES: Emergency medical services clinicians do not transport one-third of all children assessed, even without official pediatric non-transport protocols. Little is known about how EMS clinicians and caregivers decide not to transport a child. Our objectives were to describe how EMS clinicians currently decide whether or not to transport a child and identify barriers to and enablers of successfully implementing an EMS clinician-initiated pediatric non-transport protocol. METHODS: We conducted six virtual focus groups with EMS clinicians from the mid-Atlantic. A PhD trained facilitator moderated all groups using a semi-structured moderator guide. Multiple investigators independently coded a deidentified sample transcript. One team member then completed axial coding of the remaining transcripts. Thematic saturation was achieved. Clusters of similar codes were grouped into themes by consensus. RESULTS: We recruited 50 participants, of whom 70% were paramedics and 28% emergency medical technicians. There was agreement that caregivers often use 9-1-1 for low acuity complaints. Participants stated that non-transport usually occurs after shared decision-making between EMS clinicians and caregivers; EMS clinicians advise whether transport is necessary, but caregivers are responsible for making the final decision and signing refusal documentation. Subthemes for how non-transport decisions were made included the presence of agency protocols, caregiver preferences, absence of a guardian on the scene, EMS clinician variability, and distance to the nearest ED. Participants identified the following features that would enable successful implementation of an EMS clinician-initiated non-transport process: a user-friendly interface, clear protocol endpoints, the inclusion of vital sign parameters, resources to leave with caregivers, and optional direct medical oversight. CONCLUSIONS: EMS clinicians in our study agreed that non-transport is currently a caregiver decision, but noted a collaborative process of shared decision-making where EMS clinicians advise caregivers whether transport is indicated. Further research is needed to understand the safety of this practice. This study suggests there may be a need for EMS-initiated alternative disposition/non-transport protocols.