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Pediatric Early Warning System (PEWS)

Pediatric Early Warning System (PEWS)

​​What is the Pediatric Early Warning System?

PEWS is a tool that is used by your child’s healthcare team to quickly see if there have been changes to your child’s health condition. PEWS calculates a score that helps them see if changes to treatment or medicines are needed for your child. The PEWS score is made up of 6 pieces of information, including heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. PEWS helps give the healthcare team a “snapshot” or quick look at your child’s overall health condition at that time. 

Checking vital signs is a routine part of any hospital stay. Tracking key information over time helps nurses and doctors monitor how your child is doing while in hospital.

Vital signs tracking systems have been used in hospitals for many years. Children’s hospitals in Alberta have routinely been using similar early warning systems as part of their standard patient care. Small changes can be noticed more easily, and your healthcare team is able to make changes in your child’s care sooner.

What does the PEWS score do?

By itself, the score doesn’t do anything. It’s a part of your child’s overall health assessment. The scoring ranges help show how sick your child might be. The score helps your healthcare team make care decisions and gives them a common tool to talk to each other about changes they see.

Your child’s healthcare team develops a care plan that includes what they need to do to meet your child’s specific healthcare needs. They make decisions about your child’s plan of care using information:
  • from the PEWS score
  • about your child and their specific situation
  • you give them – remember you’re an important part of your child’s healthcare team
For example, a change in PEWS score could cause your healthcare team to review medicines your child needs. It may also help them make changes in the care plan or add more or different treatments, or therapies.

What does it mean if my child has a high score?

A high PEWS score can mean different things depending on your child’s situation. It can mean that their health condition is changing, and that more or different treatments or medicines are needed. It all depends on your child and their health situation. There are some areas of the hospital where we would expect a child to have a high PEWS score.

For example:
  • If a child just came out of surgery their PEWS score would be higher. We expect that it will get better over time.
  • Some children have pre-existing conditions that will give them a higher score to start than others.

In these cases, a high PEWS score could be a normal part of their hospital stay. A change from your child’s baseline score is what your healthcare team will watch for. To make sure your child is safe, it may be necessary to check vital signs even while your child is sleeping.

Decisions about what is done about the PEWS score, or your child’s care will include you and your child’s healthcare team. Talk to them if you have any questions about this.

When and where might this score be seen?

The PEWS score can be seen by nurses, doctors, and other healthcare team members when they open your child’s chart. This information is not shown in a personal health record.

Talk to your healthcare team if you’re interested in seeing your child’s PEWS score. Remember that the PEWS score is a helpful guide for your care team and is only a single part of your child’s entire assessment. How your child looks and feels along with all of the clinical information gives the best picture of how your child is doing.

It’s important that you let your healthcare team know if you’re worried, notice a difference in your child, or have any questions. You can always ask them to review the score with you and what it means in your situation.

Current as of: June 19, 2023

Author: Early Warning Scores Group - Alberta Health Services