Parents and families know their children best; they are the first to know when their child is experiencing something new. But until now, unless families voluntarily shared the information in a way the care team could medically chart it, there was no way to incorporate it into the pediatric acute care unit’s patient status tool. However, new work is changing that.

“We’ve had a patient status tool to help our care providers determine if a patient’s condition was changing for over eight years but we noticed several years ago that we didn’t have a way to work family concerns into the tool,” says Tammy Lucas, Manager of the Acute Care Pediatrics unit at Royal University Hospital (RUH) and current co-lead of Team Communication and Performance for Safer Every Day. “The work we have been doing with Safer Every Day gave us an opportunity to finally include families. After all, families know their kids best.”

On November 16, posters outlining the family communication tools called Pediatric Early Warning Score (PEWS) and Concerned – Uncomfortable – Safety (CUS) went up in all patient care areas in Acute Care Pediatrics. PEWS is designed to give families a fuller understanding of what happens to the care their child is receiving when patient status changes in a simple and visual way. For example, if something changes, perhaps a new symptom appears or breathing changes, the care a child receives would adapt to the new status. A nurse could explain to the family that we’ve changed from green to yellow. By looking at the PEWS poster, the family would understand this could mean a nurse is evaluating the child more often and a resident has been called to assess what this change could mean for the care plan.

The new family communication posters - PEWS

The new family communication posters – Pediatric Early Warning Score (PEWS)

CUS is an acronym for Concerned – Uncomfortable – Safety. The CUS poster is designed to provide families with a visual mechanism to understand how they may be feeling and now to speak up if they need to. For example, being uncomfortable about a procedure or care plan that is being explained is okay and many people experience it. The important thing is to tell the nurse you are uncomfortable so they can better explain what will be done or why having it done is important. Lucas explains, “Taking the mystery out of something takes away some of the fear and that is so important.”

The new family communication posters - CUS

The new family communication posters – CUS

In addition to the posters, every family will have time with their care givers near the beginning of their stay in hospital to go over the tools to understand why they are there and how they can be used.

The tools were created after the family advisor for Team Communication and Performance, Kara Protz, spoke to families in Acute Care Pediatrics. “Having Kara speak to families to get their input into these tools has really opened doors for us,” says Lucas.

“I really felt included on this team. Like I was making a difference,” says Protz. “We have truly created resources that will make a more positive experience for families based on their needs.”

The group will monitor how the new tools work over the coming weeks and make changes as necessary. The Region is very excited to be able to offer these tools to our patients and their families to make our system Safer Every Day.