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10:14 AM

Cook Children’s Implements Training to Increase Seizure Awareness and Safety

A seizure can happen anytime, anywhere to anyone. That’s why Cook Children’s Medical Center is on a mission to increase awareness about seizures and their many subtleties. In November, the medical center is rolling out the Epilepsy Foundation’s Seizure Recognition and First Aid Certification program hospital-wide with the goal of creating additional layers of safety for employees, patients and guests who suffer from seizures. 

The Seizure Recognition and First Aid Certification program helps individuals understand and recognize types of seizures, identify signs and symptoms of each, learn how to administer first aid when witnessing a seizure and outlines when to call for help.

“We sought to develop the program in-house knowing that Cook Children’s was an ideal venue to demonstrate how a company could institute wide-scale implementation of the Epilepsy Foundation's training to get large numbers of people educated,” said M. Scott Perry, M.D., epileptologist and medical director of Neurology and the Genetic Epilepsy Clinic at Cook Children’s. “Several of our nurses completed the necessary instructor education and, subsequently, took the training and made it an online course available to our staff. We’re encouraging all staff to complete the training in an effort to make Cook Children’s seizure safe.”

Dr. Perry sits on the professional advisory board for the Epilepsy Foundation of America and chairs the Public Health and Education Committee that reviews the course’s content.

About one in 10 people may have a seizure in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Although common, seizures are as varied as the individuals they impact. While some may result in a visible loss of consciousness or uncontrolled movement, others may be invisible to those who lack experience with or are unaware of the nuances of seizure disorders.

“This program breaks through stereotypes about seizures, even among health care professionals,” said Aubrey Esparza, MSN, RN, CPN, neurosciences clinical nurse leader at Cook Children’s. “Seizures can present in many different ways. Some can be subtle, so it is important to know the signs to look for.”

Oftentimes, unrecognized seizures are incorrectly labeled as behavioral problems, attention deficits or even substance abuse, resulting in a lapse of timely medical treatment, according to Esparza. Knowing what to look for and being able to describe the seizure activity in detail is key in getting individuals the help they need. The certification program emphasizes the importance that seizure description plays in diagnosis and treatment and the types of information health care providers need from a witness for better diagnosis and treatment.

“When a seizure is presumed to be something else, a child is unable to receive timely medical treatment," Esparza said. "Knowing what to look for and being able to describe that seizure activity in detail gives providers so much information as to how to diagnose and treat an individual. The more we know about what an individual’s seizure looks like, the better.”

Certification was first offered in-house to Cook Children’s inpatient neurosciences staff members in September. Since then, 56 members of the neurosciences team have completed certification—now a mandatory part of their continuing education employee training. But understanding how to recognize a seizure is also very valuable for those on general medical floors and in high-traffic areas like patient registration or the cafeteria, and the training is suitable for both medical professionals and non-medical employees. All Cook Children’s staff are encouraged to complete the optional one-hour course through the hospital's employee education portal.

The certification program is also offered to families of patients at risk for seizures or newly diagnosed with epilepsy. So far, nine families have completed the training and have reported increased confidence in managing seizure activity as well as the ability to better recognize and describe seizures. Even families who have children with epilepsy for multiple years have reported that the course is extremely valuable. Training for patient families is currently offered once a week via Zoom and will be provided in-person once it is safe to do so.

The Epilepsy Foundation’s course is open to any adult interested in increasing their confidence in recognizing seizures and providing seizure first aid. It is designed for anyone who works, lives or plays in a setting where seizures could occur or who interacts with someone who has seizures, according to the Foundation.

For more information on how you or members of your organization can become Seizure Recognition and First Aid Certified, visit or contact your local Epilepsy Foundation.

Learn More about Cook Children’s Epilepsy Program

Cook Children's Comprehensive Epilepsy Program is one of the leading and most advanced pediatric epilepsy programs in the country. The National Association of Epilepsy Centers recognizes Cook Children's Comprehensive Epilepsy Program as a Level 4 Pediatric Epilepsy Center. Level 4 epilepsy centers have the professional expertise and facilities to provide the highest level medical and surgical evaluation and treatment for patients with complex epilepsy.

Our program coordinates the skills of a highly specialized team of experts across neurosciences and Cook Children's Health Care System. This team is made up of epileptologists, neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuropsychologists, nurse specialists, EEG technologists, nutritionists, nurse educators, social workers and Child Life specialists, all working together to ensure children with epilepsy receive the most accurate diagnosis and advanced treatment available.

More than 13,000 infants and children with seizures are treated at Cook Children’s each year. Annually, we perform more than 6,000 EEGs and 40-50 epilepsy surgeries, making Cook Children's Comprehensive Epilepsy Program one of the busiest pediatric epilepsy centers in the nation. And with specialized diagnostic tools, like our MEG, the newest generation of advanced imaging technology is now available to even our youngest patients.

For more information, visit our website.

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