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Jeffrey Burns

This post, final of a three-part series, is adapted from a talk by Jeffrey P. Burns, MD, MPH, Chief of the Division of Critical Care Medicine at Children’s Hospital Boston, at the IBM Impact 2011 Global Conference. (See posts one and two.)

We have a healthcare gap in the United States and around the globe: There aren’t enough doctors and nurses trained in how to take care of a critically ill child. Children are not little adults; you can’t just cut the doses.

So we need a solution. But the solution that we need in a resource-limited environment is not the same solution that we need in a resource-advantaged environment. We need to find a platform that addresses the needs of both.

Several years ago, one of my colleagues, Traci Wolbrink, went to a camp in sub-Saharan Africa, Full story »

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Jeffrey P. Burns, MD, MPH, is Chief of the Division of Critical Care Medicine at Children’s Hospital Boston. He established and is Executive Director of the Children’s Hospital Simulator Program, one of the first hospital-based pediatric simulator programs in the U.S., and also co-chairs the hospital’s Ethics Committee. This post, second of three parts, is adapted from his recent talk at the IBM Impact 2011 Global Conference.


“Practice makes perfect” is an axiom that holds for most tasks, including providing health care to a critically ill patient.  And yet even if I’m in training for several years, the experiences I get and the experiences the person next to me gets are radically different – in fact, they’re very random.  I’m on one night, you’re on the next night, and what I saw last night, you won’t see tonight.

That’s no way to dose and sequence knowledge; in fact, no one would set up an educational program where you learned randomly.  There’s a troublesome paradox: Medical crises are relatively rare events in children, as compared with adults, and thus there are fewer physicians and nurses with the necessary experience in caring for critically ill children.

Every month, I get letters from all over the world – “Dr. Burns, can I observe in your ICU?” Last month, we’ve had somebody from Iran, Pakistan and Turkey. And yet we often must say “no,” because the walls are only so big. How can we best spread our knowledge and expertise? Full story »

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(This post, the first of three, is adapted from a talk Jeffrey Burns, MD, MPH, gave at IBM’s Impact 2011 Global Conference in April. For the full talk, jump to 44:37 in this video.)

Right now, valuable information is bottlenecked in an old paradigm. Expert training on how to treat children with life-threatening illnesses is available at relatively few hospitals across the world, and access to this training remains anchored to an apprenticeship model – see one, do one, teach one – that’s now nearly 100 years old.

We need to change that paradigm. Full story »

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