2 Designations, 1 Team! PMC Ambulance Services & Hospital Receives Pediatric Designations

On December 4th 2018, Pondera Medical Center completed another important step toward Lifespan Quality Care by receiving the Pediatric Capable Facility designation. Two separate Pediatric Capable recognitions were awarded to Pondera Medical Center and PMC Ambulance Services. The Pondera Medical Center Acute hospital has been formally recognized by the Montana Emergency Medical Services for Children’s Program (EMSC) as a Pediatric Capable Facility. Pondera County Ambulance Service has been recognized by the EMSC as a Level III Master/Platinum Pediatric EMS Service. This special day reflected months of work lead by Assistant Director of Nursing and Trauma Coordinator Erica Krings, with facility wide input by Ruth Erickson’s EMS crew, (Ria French, Paramedic and the official Pediatric Advocate for our EMS), Laura Erickson CNO, Dr. Jay Taylor, EP Director and CPST Cynthia Grubb, though Erica Krings states, “honestly, this was an effort by the whole team about something that we all care about…kids.

The mission of Montana’s Emergency Medical Services and the Child Ready MT Project is to implement a performance driven system of healthcare for pediatrics in Montana ensuring that children, no matter where they live, play, or travel have access to the right care at the right time with the right resources.

The Montana Trauma Team who came to the facility included Robin Suzor, Montana’s State Coordinator, and Jason Mahoney, Pediatric Liaison for the State, as well as the group’s cultural liaison. PMC offers them thanks for their assistance as the facility worked to obtain this designation. Besides inspecting the PMC facility and policies, they provided education regarding some available resources and offered advice toward next steps. The team praised the facility efforts and could be heard saying things that made our leaders smile like; “The Pediatric Annex was the best one we have seen, and it may be the stepping stone towards a statewide template.” The annex, penned by Cynthia Grubb with materials from the Basic Disaster Life Support curriculum, offers overview and strategy for dealing with children in all emergencies according to age and developmental level and is contained in the Emergency Operations Plan.

Pondera Medical Center has staff, trained in Pediatric Care, has Pediatric Policies and Procedures in place, has a designated Pediatric Emergency Care Coordinator (Erica Krings); Child Passenger Safety Technicians on staff and they will conduct at least one public child passenger safety seat inspection annually. They are collaborative partners with the local Emergency Medical Services and work with the area Schools to help ensure health and safety for children and families. Pondera Medical Center offers preventative services to their community. The Pondera Medical Center has full-scale disaster drills including pediatric patients to help ensure preparedness across the service area. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) related to childhood trauma is also included in the staff education.

Erica Krings, RN and Assistant Director of Nursing at PMC, recalls a 2015 football game when her son, then 2, slipped through the bleachers, striking the crossbars as he fell 10-12 feet. The dramatic presentation to the Pondera Medical Center ER ended well as Liam was not seriously injured; but Erica retains this memory as motivation knowing that every child’s life could hang in the balance of trauma and a skilled ER provider that is properly trained and equipped.

Pondera County Ambulance Service has a Medical Director, a Pediatric Emergency Care Coordinator (Ria French, MTCCT-P); acknowledges that a minimum of 4 hours of pediatric education is offered to staff on an annual basis and documentation will be separate from other education; conducts community outreach events for pediatrics safety and well-being. Pondera County Ambulance Service has pediatric supplies and equipment as well as a pediatric ambulance restraint device available. The Formal Pediatric Pre-hospital EMS Recognition is for a period of 3 years.

Ria French is the Pediatric Emergency Care Coordinator for Ambulance Services. Regarding the designation, Ria says: “The two things in the world I’m most passionate about are my son, Kolton, and EMS. So when it came to designating the role of PECC (pediatric emergency care coordinator) for the formal designation, it was easy for me to jump at the opportunity. It’s difficult not to put your child’s face on every pediatric patient you encounter, and that really fueled my desire for excellence in the care we provide to the children in our community. Montana Emergency Medical Services for Children supplied us with the equipment to start and from there we organized it and set out to focus on training. Pediatric emergencies are part of the low frequency, high risk emergency events that we train hard and often for. We’ve integrated pediatric specific training on both advanced and basic life support levels. As P.E.C.C., it is my responsibility to ensure we incorporate a minimum of 4 hours of pediatric training, which we go far beyond each year. Sam Thornton helped immensely by organizing and teaching a pediatric emergency assessment and stabilization course (PEARS) for BLS providers on the crew. All of our Paramedics are certified in PALS (pediatric advanced life support) as well. With the organization of pediatric specific ALS and BLS equipment, community outreach projects for pediatric safety, and well-being and pediatric specific trainings; I was able to apply for the Platinum level for the Pediatric readiness designation. Knowing our EMS crew goes above and beyond every day to be prepared for pediatric emergencies is especially comforting to me as a parent and a paramedic in our community. I’m really looking forward to some of the community outreach events that are in the works for the near future.

Most everyone in the PMC hospital and ambulance services has children in their lives in some capacity outside of work. Being in a rural community with a rich history serving families throughout multiple generations, this designation is extra meaningful to those at PMC and throughout the community. Our children are 100% the future and we are proud to be recognized as ready for all emergencies, in the unfortunate case that one should occur. Ambulance Services and PMC Emergency services within the facility have tremendous communication and team working skills to make transitions smooth and high-quality from arrival on the scene until discharge. Thank you to all the Pondera Medical Center Staff for being pediatric ready and for keeping our kids safe!

For more information on the MT EMS for Children Program call Robin Suzor, MT EMS for Children Program Manager or Jason Mahoney, Pediatric Liaison, at or go to: