Introduction: Management of pediatric cardiac arrest challenges the skills of prehospital care providers. Errors and error-producing conditions are difficult to identify from retrospective records. The objective of this study was to identify errors committed by prehospital care providers and the underlying causes of those errors during a simulated pediatric cardiopulmonary arrest followed by a structured debriefing.
Methods: Performance criteria were defined prospectively by an advisory panel. Prehospital care providers from 6 emergency medical service agencies in Michigan participated in a simulation of an infant cardiopulmonary arrest using their own drugs, equipment, and protocols in a mobile trailer. Simulations were video recorded and played back during debriefings that were conducted immediately after the event to facilitate error analysis. Observed errors and subjects' explanations were analyzed by thematic qualitative assessment methods and descriptive statistics.
Results: One hundred ninety-four subjects, including paramedics, emergency medical technicians, and emergency medical responders in various crew configurations, participated in 60 simulation sessions during a 5-month period (April to August of 2010). Error types were classified into 4 clinically important themes as follows: failure to provide adequate ventilation, failure to provide effective circulation, failure to achieve vascular access rapidly, and medication errors. Multiple underlying causes of medication dosing and other errors were identified, including cognitive, procedural, communication, teamwork, and systems factors.
Conclusions: We systematically observed many types of errors and identified some of the underlying causes during a simulated, prehospital, pediatric cardiopulmonary arrest. There were numerous, multifactorial, and sometimes, synergistic causes of medication dosing errors. Emergency medical service officials can use these findings to prevent future errors.