Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) is one of two Advanced Life Support courses we have at Saskatoon First Aid. The other program is ACLS – Advanced Cardiac Life Support. Our PALS program differs from other CPR programs we offer because it is an advanced CPR program for pediatric patients – categorizing children in infants, younger children, and older children. It is tailored for allied health professionals who work with children and commonly experience pediatric emergencies.
Why are children managed differently?
Like simple things such as food and clothing, children are cared for differently because they are smaller and immature. The same goes for their health and potential problems that can affect their health. When children are admitted to a healthcare facility, the treatment and medication that they receive are modified with regards to their age, height, and weight.
Medication dosages are particularly different for children because their organ systems are still immature – meaning their hepatorenal clearance is slower than that of a healthy adult which affects the amount of drugs their bodies can handle at one time.
How is PALS different from ACLS?
ACLS and PALS programs both fall under Advanced Life Support, but the former focuses on adult patient management and the latter falls under pediatric patient management. The PALS program curriculum will involve topics such as:
- Assessment of an infant, toddler, and school-age child
- Pediatric dosages of common cardiorespiratory medication
- Defibrillation of pediatric patients
- Cardiorespiratory emergencies in children
- Common diseases that affect children
At Saskatoon First Aid, the PALS training program is 14 hours long, spread out of two days (or more, depending on the needs of the students). Typically, it is completed in two days, plus an additional day for the written and skills tests.
We award all our trainees with a PALS training certificate as long as they complete the program with 100 percent attendance and passing grades on both the written and skills tests. Since trainees are immediately given their scores, once they pass we grant them a temporary PALS credential while we process their permanent credentials. The permanent ones are mailed to the trainees within the week.
PALS credentials (and other credentials offered by Saskatoon First Aid) expire after 36 months from the date they are first issued. They can be renewed by taking a PALS refresher course and another set of tests. Same conditions apply to refresher courses in order to receive a new credential, valid for another three years.
Getting started on training: Pediatric assessment
If getting admitted to a healthcare facility is a scary experience for an adult, imagine what it must be like for a child. Health workers, diagnostic exams, and even medication administration scare them, and they often become restless and upset if their parents or guardians aren’t around. Simple assessment can be very difficult, even with the parent helping so here are a few tips if you are handling a pediatric patient:
- Have the child sit on the parent/guardian’s lap or right beside them
- Interact with the child, allowing them to play with your equipment
- Start from least invasive to most invasive procedures (e.g. leave examining the ears and nose last)