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Cardinal Glennon / Resources / For Health Professionals / STARS for Special Needs Kids

STARS: Special Needs Tracking & Awareness Response System

The STARS program helps coordinate and coach ambulance districts, fire districts and community hospitals to:

  • Recognize the special needs of patients inside their coverage area
  • Undergo the appropriate, specialized training to care for these patients’ special medical needs

The goal is to have pertinent patient information in the hands of the medical professionals before they even arrive at the patient’s side. This way they can provide the care needed immediately and skillfully. Ultimately, this decreases anxiety, pain, and unnecessary measures for the patient. It also decreases stress on the healthcare provider. Our goal is to achieve better outcomes for our patients, faster.

Children who especially benefit are those with:

  • Cardiac histories
  • Neurological disorders
  • Severe medical complexities
  • Specific end of life wishes or DNR orders
  • Tracheostomies
  • Ventilator dependence

How STARS Works

The fire or ambulance district will appoint a STARS coordinator and determine a point of contact for families.

Then comes the job of identifying children to participate in the program. Always following best practices to ensure children’s and  families’ privacy, this can include:

  • Communication with local discharging hospitals or other community service institutions
  • Familiarization with the district and/or community outreach like:
    •  Sending a letter explaining STARS and how participants can benefit
    • Social media posts from the districts encouraging families to sign up

Once a child - or a “star” - is identified for the program, each patient will be given a STARS number or identifier, and a home visit is scheduled with the patient and family. This is to secure pertinent medical information and share realistic expectations about the program, like the district’s capabilities and limitations. Open communication is key!

Special advanced training and education is then provided by SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital for the ambulance district, fire department and/or the community hospital. Pre-plans are then set to match the anticipated needs of the “star” child for those emergency or hospitalization situations.

How STARS is Successful

The STARS program works best if the most current preplan is in the hands of the first responders and local hospital, so they may reference it prior to seeing the child. Regular contact between caregivers and first responders for updates on medical changes is imperative. When changes are made, information should be shared with all parties involved, following - of course - the rules and regulations for “flagging” an address and passing private health information from one caregiver to another.

The STARS program originally operated on paper forms and binders, but has transitioned to an electronic database accessible by all healthcare providers that are registered to use the system. This change is improving quality control and allowing the STARS patients to be treated across the whole region, not just by their local services.

STARS was created by experienced first responders and training is coordinated through and provided by SSM Health Cardinal Glennon, where experienced staff are acutely aware of the capabilities and limitations of first responders and community hospitals. Thus, making the relationship one of mutual benefit.

Implement STARS in Your District

For ambulance districts, fire departments or community hospitals interested in implementing STARS in their community should contact:

Tricia Casey | STARS Coordinator

Nicholas Salzman | STARS Program Liaison

Resources for Families

Parents, teachers and other caregivers can also help promote the safest, happiest environment possible for children. Check out some resources here:

Resources for Health Care Providers

First responders, physicians, nurses and allied health professional can benefit from and ultimately better serve their patients with the following resources:

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