Group photo of nurses at Coulee Medical Center
A group of nurses who took part in training through the Collaborative Pediatric Outreach Program. Cory Risse, of the WSU College of Nursing, is in the back row, second from the right, with Dianne Molsberry, of Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, back row on the right. 

Small rural hospitals face pediatric emergencies less frequently than their urban counterparts. That creates a host of challenges, from staff not being familiar with pain-control protocols, to not having appropriately sized supplies and equipment, to seemingly little things, like not having toys on hand to distract young patients.

That’s why the WSU College of Nursing teamed with Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital in a pilot project to improve pediatric care at Coulee Medical Center in Grand Coulee, Washington.

Cory Risse, a nursing instructor at the WSU College of Nursing, was paired with Dianne Molsberry, pediatric outreach coordinator at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, to work with nurses at the 25-bed, Level IV trauma hospital.

They began by reviewing data and surveying the medical staff to gauge their comfort level in caring for pediatric patients, then pinpointed needs, Risse said. Working in collaboration with nursing leaders and administrators at the hospital, Risse and Molsberry decided to offer an education day for nurses, plus information on best practices for pediatrics policies and procedures.

“We taught them respiratory, pain management, and general approaches to working with kids,” Risse said. Nurses were tested before and after the training, and their scores improved, she said.

To help sustain the changes, two nurses were designated “peds champions.” They came to Spokane to shadow pediatric nurses at Sacred Heart Children’s, and will be in charge of continuing education efforts at Coulee Medical Center.

Charlotte Wilson, nurse educator at the hospital, said the project helped increase staff comfort levels in working with pediatric patients. “It was a good program,” she said.

Now the WSU College of Nursing and Providence will take the lessons learned in the pilot project and try to expand the program, said Wendy Buenzli, clinical associate professor at the College of Nursing. The Collaborative Pediatric Outreach Program could be offered throughout the Northwest, she said, with rural hospitals and clinics choosing from a menu of options. That might include consulting on needed equipment, training, a quality improvement project, or help finding resources.

Buenzli noted that WSU is a land-grant university, with a mission rooted in public service and outreach. The pediatric program “is a great opportunity to partner with Providence in serving rural areas,” she said.