Paramedic-Identified Enablers of and Barriers to Pediatric Seizure Management: A Multicenter, Qualitative Study

Background: Seizures have the potential to cause significant morbidity and mortality, and are a common reason emergency medical services (EMS) are requested for a child. An evidence-based guideline (EBG) for pediatric prehospital seizures was published and has been implemented as protocol in multiple EMS systems. Knowledge translation and protocol adherence in medicine can be incomplete. In EMS, systems-based factors and providers’ attitudes and beliefs may contribute to incomplete knowledge translation and protocol implementation. Objective: The purpose of this study was to identify paramedic attitudes and beliefs regarding pediatric seizure management and regarding potential barriers to and enablers of adherence to evidence-based pediatric seizure protocols in multiple EMS systems. Methods: This was a qualitative study utilizing semi-structured interviews of paramedics who recently transported actively seizing 0–17 year-old patients in 3 different urban EMS systems. Interviewers explored the providers’ decision-making during their recent case and regarding seizures in general. Interview questions explored barriers to and enablers of protocol adherence. Two investigators used the grounded theory approach and constant comparison to independently analyze transcribed interview recordings until thematic saturation was reached. Findings were validated with follow-up member-checking interviews. Results: Several themes emerged from the 66 interviewed paramedics. Enablers of protocol adherence included point-of-care references, the availability of different routes for midazolam and availability of online medical control. Systems-level barriers included equipment availability, controlled substance management, infrequent pediatric training, and protocol ambiguity. Provider-level barriers included concerns about respiratory depression, provider fatigue, preferences for specific routes, febrile seizure perceptions, and inaccurate methods of weight estimation. Paramedics suggested system improvements to address dose standardization, protocol clarity, simplified controlled substance logistics, and equipment availability. Conclusions: Paramedics identified enablers of and barriers to adherence to evidence-based pediatric seizure protocols. The identified barriers existed at both the provider and systems levels. Paramedics identified multiple potential solutions to overcome several barriers to protocol adherence. Future research should focus on using the findings of this study to revise seizure protocols and to deploy measures to improve protocol implementation. Future research should also analyze process and outcome measures before and after the implementation of revised seizure protocols informed by the findings of this study.