North Big Horn Hospital receives certification for pediatric care

Ryan Fitzmaurice
North Big Horn Hospital became the eighth hospital in the state to be certified as a pediatric receiving facility, the end of an arduous process to prepare the hospital to be able to better tackle the treatment of young patients. 

They are the first medical facility in the Big Horn Basin to receive the certification. 

According to Scott Logan, the EMS Supervisor for the Wyoming Department of Health, the statewide program is funded by a Human Resources and Services Administration grant aiming to treat a nationwide program of less than ideal treatment of pediatrics nationwide.

Logan said that pediatric patients are often more difficult to treat than adult patients. There are physical limitations, meaning hospitals need to attain pediatric specific equipment for procedures. There’s the aspect  of frequency, Logan said, stating that only 20-30 percent of patients a physician might see are pediatric patients, meaning that there is less comfort and expertise. And there are less visible barriers, Logan said, such as the emotional aspect.

“No one wants to see a kid get hurt or a kid sick. When you think about an adult, a lot of the stuff that happens with adults is activity driven or lifestyle driven,” Logan said. “When it comes to a kid, it’s not their choice that they are hurt or they are sick. It’s a different feeling, and it’s a lot more emotionally intense.”

The state is pushing for all 29 hospitals with emergency departments to participate in the certification process. Logan said the main goal of the certification process is primarily education.

“It requires providers to have 16 hours of continued pediatric education within two years,” Logan said. “That way, not only do we make sure they have the equipment they need, it gives them the education to help them be prepared.”

Shelley Murphey, who oversaw the certification process for North Big Horn Hospital, said the hospital district has been working toward the certification since before COVID but stated that a lot of the intense work toward completing the process has taken place in the last 3-4 months.

“We had to meet with the state. They had a list of criteria that we needed to meet. There was equipment we needed to have, policies we needed to have in place. We needed to add a pediatric care section to our improvement plan. We needed to be able to provide appropriate transfer for pediatric patients,” Murphey said. “Now that everything is in place we can have smooth, higher quality care with better outcomes.”

Murphey said one of the biggest impacts of the training and preparation is being able to provide better care for juvenile patients in house.

“A lot of the times in the past, we didn’t feel equipped to handle more serious illness or injury with pediatric patients,” Murphey said. “This allows us to keep them here, treat them here and avoid transferring them to another facility. By increasing the education and training our staff has, instead of transferring right away, we can treat them here.”

Murphey said the certification was not just the result of the efforts of the emergency department but by the efforts of personnel across every department in the hospital.

Logan said that while the certification process is emergency department focused, pediatric care extends far beyond just the emergency room. Logan mentioned radiology and pharmacy as two other departments that regularly engage in pediatric care.

“This certification is not just an easy thing. It’s not just putting together a binder with protocols. It’s not a rubber stamp,” Logan said. “Hospitals have to put a lot of effort, time and attention into this.”

It might be a weighty process, but Logan said the change it represents in healthcare is important.

“I’ve been in emergency medical services since 1991. When I first started we were taught that kids were just small adults and to treat them the same way. As my career has progressed, that thinking has really changed. Kids aren’t small adults. You have to think of them differently,” Logan said. “We are realizing the importance of pediatric education. We are changing our thought process as an industry.”


Edit: This article has been changed to reflect a correction after initial publicaiton.  The hospital has been certified as a pediatric receiving facility, not a pediatric trauma center.