Implementing Universal Suicide Risk Screening in a Pediatric Hospital

Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2021 Aug;47(8):496-502. doi: 10.1016/j.jcjq.2021.05.001. Epub 2021 May 13.


Background: Health care providers are in a prime position to identify teens at risk for suicide, yet many do not. The research team developed and implemented a hospitalwide program to identify teens at elevated risk for suicide and connect them with services.

Methods: Screening was implemented at both locations of a pediatric hospital, including two emergency departments, three urgent care clinics, and ambulatory clinics. Patients aged 12 years and older presenting for care were screened for suicide risk using the Ask Suicide-Screening Questions (ASQ) in most settings, while the Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS) was used in mental health areas. A social worker responded to positive screens to complete a more thorough assessment and determine next steps. Social workers also completed outreach to patients in the weeks following a positive screen. Implementation began with pilot locations and expanded after refinements were made. Stakeholders provided screening recommendations, and education was provided prior to implementation. The cost of implementation was calculated based on the time screening required from nursing and social work.

Results: Review of the program focused on implementation fidelity, quality improvement, and trends among screening results. During the first year of screening, 138,598 screens were completed, and 6.8% of screens were positive for elevated risk. The annualized cost of the program was estimated to be $887,708.65 for personnel directly involved in screening and following up on positive screens.

Conclusion: Early involvement of stakeholders and hospital leaders and a robust response plan were essential to successful implementation of this suicide-screening program.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Hospitals, Pediatric*
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening
  • Quality Improvement
  • Suicide Prevention*