State successes: Raising the bar through teamwork

  • Published June 29, 2022
Vicki Petersen Iowa EMSC

Pulse “State Successes” highlights the efforts of the EMSC State Partnerships, which work to improve and integrate pediatric emergency care within a state or territory’s EMS system.

This month we sat down with Vicki Petersen, CCP, of the Iowa EMSC State Partnership, to talk about some of the work she has been doing within her region. Vicki works for the Iowa Department of Public Health as the state EMSC program manager. She is a nationally registered critical care paramedic and former firefighter, and manages a free medical clinic in her community. She also has a BA in journalism from the University of Iowa. Vicki began her role in EMSC in August 2019. With a 70% volunteer EMS base, she has had to get creative to reach as many people as possible.

Describe a recent success within your SP program.

“One of the biggest successes of this program is the overall vision of inclusion. Our goal is to create an environment that fosters teamwork and creates relationships ahead of the need for projects. We work towards a joint effort of our EMS agencies, police, fire, social services and hospitals to be in collaboration with each other. Establishing a relationship among all these players is really what builds the foundation of our work.”

How did this idea come to fruition?

"I was working on strategic planning for my program, and I saw this vision of an organizational chart with all these different entities coming together and how they crossover and how they interact, and that became the vision for the program. So, when we’re planning programs, I keep that strategic chart in my head and look for ways that our programs can intersect with each other, and that way they can have a part in everything. Like the PECC [pediatric emergency care coordinator] program, hospital recognition, and everything we do, we try to reach as many as we can to get the most bang for our buck. It’s impossible these days for anyone to have enough funding for their programs, so if we can connect hospitals who have pediatric education equipment with [volunteer] EMS agencies who need training but don’t have equipment, we can save some of that funding for other things, like pediatric transport devices.

It’s my dream that medical providers will work together, sharing training and equipment among services and inviting others, like law enforcement, to trainings when it makes sense. That’s so important in a state where more than 70% of our EMS services are strictly volunteer."

Why is this success important and how will it potentially improve pediatric emergency care?

"I think that when all the different contributors to care work together you can’t help but raise the bar. And take better care of kids.

That is the heart of our PECC program, and that’s why we welcome folks from all of those groups to our PECC collective. We want the PECC program to be a meeting place, a place where EMS and hospital providers, law enforcement, school nurses, social and public health workers—anyone who wants to improve care for children—can come together, create relationships, find continuing education and learn how to care for kids in the best possible way."

What has been your biggest challenge and what is your approach to overcoming it?

"I am a one-person EMSC program, and I am funded as such! So, all of the things that we do are absolutely dependent upon our passionate volunteers. All these people have the same kind of passion that I have for taking care of kids, and without them I could not do what I do.

We have six EMSC programs (Kansas, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Minnesota,) working together as the Heartland EMS for Children Coalition. We all share resources, and collaborate to provide continuing education and to do things that we couldn’t do separately. Almost none of what we do is about money, it’s all about effort and time, and heart. I’m very fortunate to have these passionate volunteers working beside me.

The Heartland EMS for Children Coalition virtual education program, which was created in 2019 as a response to the need for continuing education during the pandemic, has given nearly 30 hours of free continuing pediatric education so far to well over 9,000 physicians, nurses, NPs, PAs, EMS providers, social workers and others. Topics have included provider mental health, children’s mental health, kids with special health care needs, burn treatment, poisons, respiratory emergencies, and two events on human trafficking."

Would you like to add or highlight anything else?

"I’m excited about our PECC program. It includes all the people who contribute to care with kids. It includes not just EMS and hospitals but also school nurses and law enforcement, and social workers and public health workers and anybody that impacts that child’s life. The only requirement is they have the passion for taking good care of kids. The more people that come to the table the better care we can take of kids; everyone has something they can teach and something they can learn.

We are also close to launching our hospital recognition program, so that’s exciting. We have 118 hospitals and 114 are level 3 or 4.

The program is very focused on helping hospitals, as opposed to just scoring or judging them. If a hospital struggles with any of the program requirements, our Recognition Subcommittee members are committed to providing assistance to help them. Our focus has always been to use teamwork to help raise the bar for pediatric treatment at all facilities, regardless of size or funding.

I’m also very passionate about health equity, and we have a really vital Families with Special Health Care Needs Subcommittee that is working on several projects and contributed to one of our continuing education virtual symposiums.

I’m just a one-person program manager, but I’m very fortunate to have the help of many people who share my passion for excellent care for kids. I believe so much in the EMSC program, and every day I get up excited to make a difference with the team of people who make this program successful — and also fun!"