Prehospital Recognition and Management of Pediatric Sepsis: A Qualitative Assessment

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Prehospital emergency care




BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Sepsis is a life-threatening disease in children and is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality. Early prehospital recognition and management of children with sepsis may have significant effects on the timely resuscitation of this high-risk clinical condition. However, the care of acutely ill and injured children in the prehospital setting can be challenging. This study aims to understand barriers, facilitators, and attitudes regarding recognition and management of pediatric sepsis in the prehospital setting. METHODS: This was a qualitative study of EMS professionals participating in focus groups using a grounded theory-based design to gather information on recognition and management of septic children in the prehospital setting. Focus groups were held for EMS administrators and medical directors. Separate focus groups were held for field clinicians. Focus groups were conducted video conference until saturation of ideas was reached. Using consensus methodology, transcripts were coded in an iterative process. Data were then organized into positive and negative factors based on the validated PRECEDE-PROCEED model for behavioral change. RESULTS: Thirty-eight participants in six focus groups identified nine environmental factors, 21 negative factors, and 14 positive factors pertaining to recognition and management of pediatric sepsis. These findings were organized into the PRECEDE-PROCEED planning model. Pediatric sepsis guidelines were identified as positive factors when they did exist and negative factors when they were complicated or did not exist. Six interventions were identified by participants. These include raising awareness of pediatric sepsis, increasing pediatric education, receiving feedback on prehospital encounters, increasing pediatric exposure and skills training, and improving dispatch information. CONCLUSION: This study fills a gap by examining barriers and facilitators to prehospital diagnosis and management of pediatric sepsis. Using the PRECEDE-PROCEED model, nine environmental factors, 21 negative factors, and 14 positive factors were identified. Participants identified six interventions that could create the foundation to improve prehospital pediatric sepsis care. Policy changes were suggested by the research team based on the results of this study. These interventions and policy changes provide a roadmap for improving care in this population and lay the groundwork for future research.