Child snuggling teddy bear while sleeping in hospital bed
HealthSeptember 28, 2020

Pediatric sepsis: Three steps to support prevention

By: Mary Anne Bera, RN, MSN
The CDC recognizes September as sepsis awareness month, with a focus to raise public awareness, prevention, detection, and treatment. Sepsis is sometimes referred to as the “silent killer” and is a leading cause of death in children.

Nearly 25% of child deaths in the world are the result of sepsis (Kusum et al., 2020). While any infection can lead to sepsis, children who have a chronic condition are more likely to succumb to complications from sepsis. As health care leaders, we can support sepsis prevention in our healthcare organization and the communities we serve through antimicrobial stewardship programs, immunization programs and healthcare associated infection prevention.

Antimicrobial stewardship programs

With growing awareness to the importance of early detection and proper treatment of infection to prevent sepsis, there has been an increase in antimicrobial stewardship programs (ASPs) in healthcare organizations. Focused on improvement of children’s clinical outcomes through antibiotic use optimization, ASPs are created to support the needs of the local communities they serve. ASPs often consist of clinical pharmacists, infectious disease physicians, infection preventionists, nurses, clinical laboratory staff and information technologists (Klatte, 2020). Nurses are especially encouraged to be a part of ASPs because of their interdisciplinary communication skills and advocacy for patient care. It’s a great way to become more involved on an organizational level to prevent infection complications and antibiotic resistance.

Childhood immunizations

Another way to combat sepsis is childhood vaccine promotion. While infections such as influenza and meningitis can cause sepsis and be fatal, they are almost 100% preventable through vaccination. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has recommendations and guidelines that healthcare providers can use to educate parents and families on the best schedule of immunization for their child. Education is very important, since there are misconceptions about vaccine safety that prevent parents from having their children vaccinated.

Healthcare associated infection prevention

While healthcare associated infections can cause sepsis and death, they are preventable with good organizational policy. According to the CDC, one in 31 hospitalized patients experience a healthcare-associated infection per day (CDC, 2018). As healthcare leaders, we can promote utilization of tools such as bundles, policies based on current evidence-based practice and research and tracking to prevent device-related infections and hospital acquired sepsis. Having nurses educate and monitor each other on proper insertion and maintenance techniques of devices will help increase accountability of infection rates of the organization and individual units.

Nurses and healthcare workers can combat pediatric sepsis and improve the health of the community they serve through collaboration, education, and engagement within their organization. What are you doing to combat sepsis in your organization?

Mary Anne Bera, RN, MSN
Clinical Editor, Lippincott Solutions, Wolters Kluwer Health
Mary Anne is a nurse with over 17 years’ experience in medical surgical nursing, including eight years of nurse leadership. She currently develops and edits clinical content for Lippincott Advisor.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). “ACIP vaccine recommendations and guidelines” [Online]. Accessed September 2020 via the Web at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/acip-recs/index.html
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). “Healthcare-associated infections: HAI data” [Online]. Accessed September 2020 via the Web at https://www.cdc.gov/hai/data/index.html
  3. Klatte, J. M. (2020). Pediatric antimicrobial stewardship programs: Current perspectives. Pediatric Health, Medicine and Therapeutics, 11, 245-255. Accessed September 2020 via the Web at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7383043/
  4. Kusum, M., et al. (2020). Pediatric sepsis definition – A systematic review protocol by the pediatric sepsis definition taskforce. Critical Care Explorations, 2(6), e0123. Accessed September 2020 via the Web at https://journals.lww.com/ccejournal/pages/articleviewer.aspx?year=2020&issue=06000&article=00011&type=Fulltext
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