Doctors, nurses, and parents are equally poor at estimating pediatric weights


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Abstract

Objective: To evaluate the relative accuracy of physicians, nurses, and parents in estimating the weight of children presenting to the emergency departmentMethods: One hundred pediatric patients between the ages of 0 and 8 years presenting to an urban teaching emergency department (40,000 patients per year) were enrolled over a 1-month period (September 1996). The parents, triage nurse, and examining physician were asked to estimate the patient's weight, each blinded to the others' estimates and the child's actual weightResults: Parents, nurses, and physicians all slightly underestimated patient weights (P < 0.05), but these groups did not differ among themselves (P > 0 .05). The total range of estimates was broad in each group (parents +292% to –41%, nurses +30% to −36%, and physicians +43% to −56%). There was no significant relationship between estimates with regard to age, weight, or sex. Twenty-nine percent of physicians' estimates, 40% of nurses' estimates, and 16% of parents' estimates differed from the actual weight by more than 15%Conclusion: Emergency department pediatric weight estimates by parents, nurses, and physicians are significantly and similarly unreliable

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