Ambulance personnel perceptions of near misses and adverse events in pediatric patients

Prehosp Emerg Care. 2010 Oct-Dec;14(4):477-84. doi: 10.3109/10903127.2010.497901.


Objective: To identify emergency medical services (EMS) provider perceptions of factors that may affect the occurrence, identification, reporting, and reduction of near misses and adverse events in the pediatric EMS patient.

Methods: This was a subgroup analysis of a qualitative study examining the nature of near misses and adverse events in EMS as it relates to pediatric prehospital care. Complementary qualitative methods of focus groups, interviews, and anonymous event reporting were used to collect results and emerging themes were identified and assigned to specific analytic domains.

Results: Eleven anonymous event reports, 17 semistructured interviews, and two focus groups identified 61 total events, of which 12 were child-related. Eight of those were characterized by participants as having resulted in no injury, two resulted in potential injury, and two involved an ultimate fatality. Three analytic domains were identified, which included the following five themes: reporting is uncommon, blaming errors on others, provider stress/discomfort, errors of omission, and limited training. Among perceived causes of events, participants noted factors relating to management problems specific to pediatrics, problems with procedural skill performance, medication problems/calculation errors, improper equipment size, parental interference, and omission of treatment related to providers' discomfort with the patient's age. Few participants spoke about errors they had committed themselves; most discussions centered on errors participants had observed being made by others.

Conclusions: It appears that adverse events and near misses in the pediatric EMS environment may go unreported in a large proportion of cases. Participants attributed the occurrence of errors to the stress and anxiety produced by a lack of familiarity with pediatric patients and to a reluctance to cause pain or potential harm, as well as to inadequate practical training and experience in caring for the pediatric population. Errors of omission, rather than those of commission, were perceived to predominate. This study provides a foundation on which to base additional studies of both a qualitative and quantitative nature that will shed further light on the factors contributing to the occurrence, reporting, and mitigation of adverse events and near misses in the pediatric EMS setting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Allied Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Ambulances*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Medical Errors* / adverse effects