Implementation of a pediatric behavioral staffing algorithm in an acute hospital: a best practice implementation project

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A progressive decline in acute psychiatric facility beds has led to a steadily increasing number of pediatric psychiatric patients hospitalized on acute care medical-surgical units. Clinical nurses in this environment feel ill-equipped to provide quality behavioral health care.


This project aimed to improve continuity of care as well as staff and patient safety in pediatric acute and transitional care units. The specific objectives related to implementation of a resource allocation algorithm for staffing behavioral health admissions and consistent use of an interdisciplinary psychiatric huddle.


This project used the Joanna Briggs Institute's Practical Application of Clinical Evidence System (PACES) and Getting Research into Practice (GRiP) audit tool for promoting health practice change. A baseline medical record audit was conducted which was followed by charge nurse education on the resource allocation algorithm and huddle initiation. Three follow-up audits measured compliance with best practice criteria for assessing and managing care of behavioral pediatric patients.


Compliance with comprehensively assessing children with challenging behaviors who were hospitalized in acute care units achieved 100% for the first three months following algorithm implementation. Nurses reached 100% compliance with initiating psychiatric huddles. All audits for individualized care plans, which included family or carer involvement, were fully compliant.


Use of a resource allocation algorithm for individualizing care of pediatric behavioral patients enhanced quality of care through a standardized process which enabled acute care nurses to better meet the safety needs of this patient population. Early signs of sustaining improvements were promising for hard-wiring workflows. Future plans include adoption of the algorithm and huddle by all in-patient areas in the children's hospital.

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