It’s a phrase that’s frequently echoed throughout the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) community – children aren’t just small adults. Children need special equipment, require different communication techniques and to ensure safety in an ambulance, they require different methods of securement during transportation.
Joel Deutsch, Deputy Chief at the Thiensville Fire Department, has made it his mission to make sure that children are properly cared for during transport in an ambulance. When it comes down to it, being properly secured in an ambulance can save a child’s life.
To further help children impacted by emergency calls in his community, Deutsch took certification classes to become a Car Seat Technician.
“Almost all ambulance equipment is geared toward adults, and there are no requirements about needing pediatric equipment when transporting children,” says Deutsch. “All equipment is made for adults and you can’t always modify that on the fly for children. Things such as a convertible car seat or a commercial device can make all the difference when transporting a child in an ambulance.”
Deutsch’s passion for advocating for children’s health extends even further in his role as a Pediatric Emergency Care Coordinator (PECC).
PECCs help advocate for children by ensuring that pediatric equipment is available, that everyone at an EMS agency is familiar with protocols for pediatric patients, and by promoting agency involvement in injury prevention activities.
The 28-year-old’s role as a Car Seat Tech and PECC combine when it comes to advocating for children. Deutsch promotes best-practice recommendations for safely restraining children in ambulances, which have been developed by national partners such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Association of State EMS Officials (NASEMSO). Deutsch recommends that children are restrained using pediatric specific commercial devices that can be attached to an ambulance cot whenever possible. For children that can maintain their airway and do not have a suspected spinal cord injury, Deutsch suggests using a convertible car seat that can be attached to the cot.
Options such as a convertible car seat and integrated child safety seat are available because a child shouldn’t be transported on the lap of a caregiver. Even though that seems like a more comfortable option at first thought, Deutsch explains that the child’s safety should always take precedence.
“You may know that transporting a child in a caregiver’s lap isn’t the safest option, but your concern is that they’ll cry or be upset or be uncomfortable if they’re in a different device,” Deutsch said. “But most kids are acclimated to a car seat, and most of these commercial devices are modeled after that design.”
“When a child is in a car seat that’s been adapted to fit a cot, the caregiver can be right there by their side so there isn’t much of a difference because of that added safety component.”
Being able to make sure that children, and everybody in his community, are being properly taken care of is why Deutsch joined the EMS field 10 years ago. His passion for helping others started when he was in elementary school when he wanted to work in fire service. When Deutsch was 17 years old he joined the Thiensville Fire Department as an Explorer, which is like “a boy scouts program at a fire department.”
Deutsch graduated high school a semester early so that he could enroll in his EMT courses at the first chance he got. Even now, 10 years later, that passion for helping others remains the same.
“Working in EMS, you can have such a profound and positive impact on so many people, even if they aren’t the patient,” Deutsch said. “On a call, this could be one of the patient’s worst days because no one wants to go to the hospital but no matter what the circumstance is, we want to go there and help that person and make sure that we leave them in a better condition than what we found them in.”
“We can get woken up at 2 a.m. for a mundane call, but we understand that this isn’t about us. This is about the patient, that’s why we go in the field – to care for others.”