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BC-wide Pediatric Early Warning System now used in Northern emergency departments


A baby wearing a diaper lays on a scale.
In 2019, BC became the first place in North America to put in place a standardized system in emergency departments.

Pediatric Early Warning Systems (PEWS) have been used for children admitted to hospitals around the world, including here in BC to help nurses identify early signs of deteriorating health in children.

In 2019, BC became the first place in North America to put in place a standardized system in emergency departments.

The BC Pediatric Early Warning System for Emergency Departments (BC PEWS ED) helps nurses in emergency rooms and health centres quickly identify abnormal vital signs, such as breathing difficulties, and track if children are getting sicker over time.

For rural health centres that may not see a lot of children, this can help staff accurately assess and decide what level of care these young patients need as soon as possible.

After a successful pilot at Richmond Hospital and provincial discussions, the program began to roll out across BC.

PEWS is now being used across BC

Through the work of Child Health BC and the BC health authorities (including the First Nations Health Authority), PEWS is now being used across BC:

  • 50 hospitals and health centres
  • 97 emergency departments
  • Seven First Nations Health Authority nursing outposts

Northern Health is using PEWS in 13 of its hospitals, and is working to implement PEWS ED in 19 of its emergency departments.

Three Northern Health hospitals took part in a mid-implementation evaluation that showed PEWS ED is working well so far. Northern Health is also auditing PEWS ED as it rolls out to Northern emergency departments.

The Child Health BC implementation team, health authority partners, and site champions will continue to look for ways to improve the system as hospitals and health centres provide feedback.

Health authorities are also taking part in research on how PEWS ED impacts pediatric health care and the health care system overall. Prince George, Fort St. John, and Mackenzie are part of this research project.

Questions about PEWS?

(This article was adapted for Northern Health from a Vancouver Coastal Health update by Theresa McElroy, Child Health BC Coordinator for Vancouver Coastal Health / Providence Health Care.)