Pediatric Advanced Life Support

by Karen Weaver

The Ukarumpa Health Centre serves both Papua New Guineans and those from other countries. The staff often gives medical treatment for common ailments such as skin infections, respiratory problems, malaria, broken bones, cuts, etc. Usually they are routine procedures, but fairly often, usually weekly, the clinic has to serve in a life-threatening emergency.

This is why it was invaluable that all clinic staff had the opportunity to be trained in Pediatric Advanced Life Support by Dr. Helen Doss. Not only does Dr. Helen have more than 30 years of experience treating children in the highlands of PNG, she is also certified by the American Heart Association as a Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) instructor.

During the training, doctors, nurses and community health care workers learned to accurately assess the source and severity of a problem, begin immediate interventions, and stabilize the patient for transport to a hospital. They practiced working as a team with other medical professionals, reviewed the location and use of emergency medical equipment, and solidified their knowledge on the correct medicines to give for each type of treatment.

Not long after the training, the staff had the opportunity to apply their skills when a six month old infant came to the clinic with severe pneumonia. Rhona, a community health worker taking the course, immediately recognized the severity of her illness and asked for assistance from Megan, RN, also in the class. She affirmed, “This is exactly like the case we practiced yesterday and I knew what do!”  The child was stabilized, started on treatment, and transported to the local hospital for further care. A child with this type of illness would have likely died if not seen as quickly and if Rhona had not recognized her severe illness and immediately started appropriate management and treatment.

Dr. Jenny said, “When a medical emergency hits, especially one involving a small child, it is scary. That’s why it is so valuable to have PALS training to run through different scenarios over and over, until we can function well as a team in the face of life and death situations.” All of the medical staff is grateful for the training they received and for the privilege of helping children and their families.

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