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Prehosp Emerg Care. 2012 Oct-Dec;16(4):519-26. doi: 10.3109/10903127.2012.695436. Epub 2012 Jul 23.

Barriers to and enablers for prehospital analgesia for pediatric patients.

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School of Medicine, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, USA.



To identify and investigate the barriers and enablers perceived by paramedics regarding the administration of analgesia to pediatric emergency medical services (EMS) patients.


This was a qualitative study in which in-depth semistructured interviews of a purposively-sampled group of 16 paramedics were performed before achieving redundancy. The interviews were structured and the data were thematically analyzed. Emerging themes were categorized into four domains, and novel themes were identified and further explored.


Thirteen of 16 paramedics reported success with analgesia in children at least once in their careers. Provider anxiety, unfamiliarity and discomfort with pediatrics, unfamiliarity with the protocol, insufficient didactic and clinical education, and concern for adverse effects from analgesic agents were perceived as barriers to pediatric pain management. The paramedics had differing beliefs about the importance of pain control, the role of parents in medical care for children, and the paramedic's ability to assess pediatric patients. Having a positive relationship with online medical control and using commercially available assistive guides were viewed as enablers for pediatric pain management. The response from paramedic supervisors and emergency department staff, unwanted attention from authority figures, perceived superiority of hospital care, difficulty obtaining intravenous access, and overall culture of stinginess in medication administration played important roles in an overall preference to defer pediatric analgesia. Some paramedics mentioned a specific experience or mentoring relationship with a more seasoned provider who taught them the importance of pain management. Paramedics reported various effects of transport distance on their decision to administer analgesia.


We have identified a number of previously unrecognized barriers to and enablers for prehospital pediatric analgesia. The majority of these factors lead to an overall preference of paramedics to defer administration of analgesic agents. A number of educational and EMS system changes could be made to address these barriers and increase the frequency of appropriate pediatric prehospital analgesia.

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