Physician management of pediatric mental health patients in the emergency department: assessment, charting, and disposition

Pediatr Emerg Care. 2012 Sep;28(9):835-41. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0b013e31826764fd.


Objective: The focus of this study was to describe the clinical data that pediatric emergentologists recorded and how they were used in the mental health (MH) care of patients.

Methods: A structured chart review was conducted for all MH presentations to a pediatric emergency department in 2007. Three research assistants extracted clinical chart data and completed the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths Tool.

Results: The clinical records of 495 children and youth were reviewed. Emergentologists referred 124 (25.4%) for a psychiatric consult, and 46 (37%) of these patients were admitted to either an inpatient psychiatric or eating-disorders unit. Psychosis, suicide risk, eating disturbance, anxiety, and resistance to treatment predicted admission to the psychiatric inpatient unit or the eating-disorders unit. Of the 365 patients discharged back to the community, the majority (n = 189, 51.8%) were referred back to their family physician. For 117 patients (32%), there was no discharge documentation in the medical chart. Age, parent present, currently on medication, currently receiving counseling, depression, anxiety, and adjustment to trauma predicted provision of charted recommendation.

Conclusions: This study revealed that the pediatric emergentologists' charting of MH patients is inconsistent and incomplete. Although recorded clinical data predicted psychiatric consultation and disposition for these patients, missing data were evident in a significant number of records. The results of the study point to a need to develop a more uniform approach to the collection and recording of clinical data for MH patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Child
  • Documentation / statistics & numerical data
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Ontario
  • Patient Discharge / statistics & numerical data
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data