Clinical Focus

  • Pediatric Critical Care Medicine

Academic Appointments

Administrative Appointments

  • Physician lead for PICU Local Improvement Team, LPCH (2016 - Present)

Professional Education

  • Board Certification: American Board of Pediatrics, Pediatric Critical Care Medicine (2014)
  • Board Certification: American Board of Pediatrics, Pediatrics (2011)
  • MD, University of Iowa School of Medicine, Iowa City, IA (2008)
  • Residency, Johns Hopkins University - Harriet Lane Pediatric Residency Program, Baltimore, MD, Pediatrics (2011)
  • Fellowship, Johns Hopkins University - Fellowship in Pediatric Critical Care Medicine, Pediatric Critical Care (2014)

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

My research interests focus on using dissemination and implementation science tools to study and enhance care provided to patients in the pediatric ICU. I have a background in human factors research and in implementation science and am also interested in clinical effectiveness and outcomes in the PICU.

All Publications

  • Pediatric Transport Triage: Development and Assessment of an Objective Tool to Guide Transport Planning. Pediatric emergency care Steffen, K. M., Noje, C. n., Costabile, P. M., Henderson, E. n., Hunt, E. A., Klein, B. L., McMillan, K. N. 2020; 36 (5): 240–47


    We developed a Pediatric Transport Triage Tool (PT3) to objectively guide selection of team composition and transport mode, thereby standardizing transport planning. Previously, modified Pediatric Early Warning Score for transport has been used to assess illness severity but not to guide transport decision making.The PT3 was created for pediatric transport by combining objective evaluations of neurologic, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems with a systems-based medical condition list to identify diagnoses requiring expedited transport and/or advanced team composition not captured by neurologic, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems alone. A scoring algorithm was developed to guide transport planning. Transport data (mode, team composition, time to dispatch, patient disposition, and complications) were collected before and after PT3 implementation at a single tertiary care center over an 18-month period.We reviewed 2237 inbound pediatric transports. Transport mode, patient disposition, and dispatch time were unchanged over the study period. Fewer calls using a transport nurse were noted after PT3 implementation (33.9% vs 30%, P = 0.05), with a trend toward fewer rotor-wing transports and transports requiring physicians. The majority of users, regardless of experience level, reported improved transport standardization with the tool. Need to upgrade team composition or mode during transport was not different during the study period. No adverse patient safety events occurred with PT3 use.The PT3 represents an objective triage tool to reduce variability in transport planning. The PT3 decreased resource utilization and was not associated with adverse outcomes. Teams with dynamic staffing models, various experience levels, and multiple transport modes may benefit from this standardized assessment tool.

    View details for DOI 10.1097/PEC.0000000000001641

    View details for PubMedID 30461668

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6526089

  • Ultrasound-Targeted Lung Recruitment: Process Improvement for Ventilating the Critically Ill Child PEDIATRIC CRITICAL CARE MEDICINE Su, E., Steffen, K. M. 2019; 20 (5): 493–94
  • Development of a Structured Outcomes Assessment and Implementation Program in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit AMERICAN JOURNAL OF MEDICAL QUALITY Steffen, K. M., Lin, J. C., Malone, S., Doctor, A., Hartman, M. E. 2019; 34 (1): 23–29
  • Use of Telemedicine During Interhospital Transport of Children With Operative Intracranial Hemorrhage* PEDIATRIC CRITICAL CARE MEDICINE Jackson, E. M., Costabile, P. M., Tekes, A., Steffen, K. M., Ahn, E. S., Scafidi, S., Noje, C. 2018; 19 (11): 1033–38


    To analyze the impact of an intervention of using telemedicine during interhospital transport on time to surgery in children with operative intracranial hemorrhage.We performed a retrospective chart review of children with intracranial hemorrhage transferred for emergent neurosurgical intervention between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2016. We identified those patients whose neuroimaging was transmitted via telemedicine to the neurosurgical team prior to arrival at our center and then compared the telemedicine and nontelemedicine groups. Mann-Whitney U and Fisher exact tests were used to compare interval variables and categorical data.Single-center study performed at Johns Hopkins Hospital.Patients less than or equal to 18 years old transferred for operative intracranial hemorrhage.Pediatric transport implemented routine telemedicine use via departmental smart phones to facilitate transfer of information and imaging and reduce time to definitive care by having surgical services available when needed.Fifteen children (eight in telemedicine group; seven in nontelemedicine group) met inclusion criteria. Most had extraaxial hemorrhage (87.5% telemedicine group; 85.7% nontelemedicine group; p = 1.0), were intubated pre transport (62.5% telemedicine group; 71.4% nontelemedicine group; p = 1.0), and arrived at our center's trauma bay during night shift or weekend (87.5% telemedicine group; 57.1% nontelemedicine group; p = 0.28). Median trauma bay Glasgow Coma Scale scores did not differ (eight in telemedicine group; seven in nontelemedicine group; p = 0.24). Although nonsignificant, when compared with the nontelemedicine group, the telemedicine group had decreased rates of repeat preoperative neuroimaging (37.5% vs 57%; p = 0.62), shorter median times from trauma bay arrival to surgery (33 min vs 47 min; p = 0.22) and from diagnosis to surgery (146.5 min vs 157 min; p = 0.45), shorter intensive care stay (2.5 vs 5 d) and hospitalization (4 vs 5 d), and higher home discharge rates (87.5% vs 57.1%; p = 0.28).Telemedicine use during interhospital transport appears to expedite definitive care for children with intracranial hemorrhage requiring emergent neurosurgical intervention, which could contribute to improved patient outcomes.

    View details for PubMedID 30134361

  • Implementation of the Recommendations for RBC Transfusions for Critically Ill Children From the Pediatric Critical Care Transfusion and Anemia Expertise Initiative. Pediatric critical care medicine : a journal of the Society of Critical Care Medicine and the World Federation of Pediatric Intensive and Critical Care Societies Steffen, K. M., Bateman, S. T., Valentine, S. L., Small, S., Spinella, P. C., Doctor, A., Pediatric Critical Care Transfusion and Anemia Initiative (TAXI), i. c. 2018; 19 (9S Suppl 1): S170–S176


    OBJECTIVES: To provide context for the implementation of the Pediatric Critical Care Transfusion and Anemia Expertise Initiative recommendations for RBC transfusions including a review of prior research related to implementation of transfusion guidelines, efforts to facilitate implementation through Transfusion and Anemia Expertise Initiative, and to provide a framework for recommendation implementation.DESIGN: Review of existing clinical literature and description of a comprehensive approach to implementation based on Implementation Science principles.RESULTS: The Transfusion and Anemia Expertise Initiative recommendations on RBC transfusions are based on clinical evidence and aim to limit unnecessary and potentially harmful transfusions. Prior efforts to use transfusion guidelines include use of provider education, local guidelines, visual aids, prospective and retrospective audit and feedback as well as computerized decision support tools; however, no single approach has been identified as optimal for implementation in pediatric critical care settings. Evidence around provider beliefs and transfusion decision-making point to the need for additional provider education, emphasizing the importance of limiting transfusions, and the development of recommendations, such as the Transfusion and Anemia Expertise Initiative guidelines, that can be applied to specific clinical conditions.CONCLUSIONS: The Transfusion and Anemia Expertise Initiative guidelines will be broadly disseminated; however, coordinated implementation efforts will be required to impact practice. An approach that encourages involvement of a wide range of multiprofessional stakeholders, formal agreement on the implemented guidelines, selection of strategies that are practical and feasible, and active monitoring of clinical practice and outcomes throughout implementation is recommended. A formal second stage Transfusion and Anemia Expertise Initiative - Continuous Assessment of Blood-use is proposed to enhance implementation of the recommendations, follow uptake and impact on practice and patient outcomes, and ensure integration of new clinical evidence into the existing guideline as it is developed.

    View details for PubMedID 30161073

  • Consensus Recommendations for RBC Transfusion Practice in Critically Ill Children From the Pediatric Critical Care Transfusion and Anemia Expertise Initiative PEDIATRIC CRITICAL CARE MEDICINE Valentine, S. L., Bembea, M. M., Muszynski, J. A., Cholette, J. M., Doctor, A., Spinella, P. C., Steiner, M. E., Tucci, M., Hassan, N. E., Parker, R. I., Lacroix, J., Argent, A., Carson, J. L., Remy, K. E., Demaret, P., Emeriaud, G., Kneyber, M. J., Guzzetta, N., Hall, M. W., Macrae, D., Karam, O., Russell, R. T., Stricker, P. A., Vogel, A. M., Tasker, R. C., Turgeon, A. F., Schwartz, S. M., Willems, A., Josephson, C. D., Luban, N. C., Lehmann, L. E., Stanworth, S. J., Zantek, N. D., Bunchman, T. E., Cheifetz, I. M., Fortenberry, J. D., Delaney, M., van de Watering, L., Robinson, K. A., Malone, S., Steffen, K. M., Bateman, S. T., Pediat Critical Care Transfusion, Pediat Critical Care Blood Res, Pediat Acute Lung Injury Sepsis 2018; 19 (9): 884–98


    To date, there are no published guidelines to direct RBC transfusion decision-making specifically for critically ill children. We present the recommendations from the Pediatric Critical Care Transfusion and Anemia Expertise Initiative.Consensus conference series of multidisciplinary, international experts in RBC transfusion management of critically ill children.Not applicable.None.Children with, or children at risk for, critical illness who receive or are at risk for receiving a RBC transfusion.A panel of 38 content and four methodology experts met over the course of 2 years to develop evidence-based, and when evidence lacking, expert consensus-based recommendations regarding decision-making for RBC transfusion management and research priorities for transfusion in critically ill children. The experts focused on nine specific populations of critically ill children: general, respiratory failure, nonhemorrhagic shock, nonlife-threatening bleeding or hemorrhagic shock, acute brain injury, acquired/congenital heart disease, sickle cell/oncology/transplant, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation/ventricular assist/ renal replacement support, and alternative processing. Data to formulate evidence-based and expert consensus recommendations were selected based on searches of PubMed, EMBASE, and Cochrane Library from 1980 to May 2017. Agreement was obtained using the Research and Development/UCLA Appropriateness Method. Results were summarized using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation method.The Transfusion and Anemia Expertise Initiative consensus conference developed and reached consensus on a total of 102 recommendations (57 clinical [20 evidence based, 37 expert consensus], 45 research recommendations). All final recommendations met agreement, defined a priori as greater than 80%. A decision tree to aid clinicians was created based on the clinical recommendations.The Transfusion and Anemia Expertise Initiative recommendations provide important clinical guidance and applicable tools to avoid unnecessary RBC transfusions. Research recommendations identify areas of focus for future investigation to improve outcomes and safety for RBC transfusion.

    View details for PubMedID 30180125

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6126913

  • Development of a Structured Outcomes Assessment and Implementation Program in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. American journal of medical quality : the official journal of the American College of Medical Quality Steffen, K. M., Lin, J. C., Malone, S., Doctor, A., Hartman, M. E. 2018: 1062860618788173


    This article reports on the Outcomes Program (OP) that the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) developed to (1) monitor unit-based outcomes trends and safety data, (2) systematically identify targets for process improvement, and (3) implement new projects and care protocols with the aim of improving patient care. Following development of the OP structure in 2013, the authors have coordinated the components of outcomes data and reporting, clinical performance review, outcomes committee, knowledge translation, and implementation science programs to impact practice. Through routine provider updates, educational strategies, and prioritization of focused projects that include structured implementation plans, the model of PICU care has been improved. Described herein is the development of the process to evaluate intensive care unit outcomes and address the need for programmatic change through implementation science principles. Such a process may be of use in other PICUs.

    View details for PubMedID 30009638

  • Tele-Pediatric Intensive Care for Critically Ill Children in Syria TELEMEDICINE AND E-HEALTH Ghbeis, M., Steffen, K. M., Braunlin, E. A., Beilman, G. J., Dahman, J., Ostwani, W., Steiner, M. E. 2017


    Armed conflicts can result in humanitarian crises and have major impacts on civilians, of whom children represent a significant proportion. Usual pediatric medical care is often disrupted and trauma resulting from war-related injuries is often devastating. High pediatric mortality rates are thus experienced in these ravaged medical environments.Using simple communication technology to provide real-time management recommendations from highly trained pediatric personnel can provide substantive clinical support and have a significant impact on pediatric morbidity and mortality.We implemented a "Tele-Pediatric Intensive Care" program (Tele-PICU) to provide real-time management consultation for critically ill and injured pediatric patients in Syria with intensive care needs.Over the course of 7 months, 19 cases were evaluated, ranging in age from 1 day to 11 years. Consultation questions addressed a wide range of critical care needs. Five patients are known to have survived, three were transferred, five died, and six outcomes were unknown.Based on this limited undertaking with its positive impact on survival, further development of Tele-PICU-based efforts with attention to implementation and barriers identified through this program is desirable.Even limited Tele-PICU can provide timely and potentially lifesaving assistance to pediatric care providers. Future efforts are encouraged.

    View details for PubMedID 29232173

  • RBC Distribution Width: Biomarker for Red Cell Dysfunction and Critical Illness Outcome? PEDIATRIC CRITICAL CARE MEDICINE Said, A. S., Spinella, P. C., Hartman, M. E., Steffen, K. M., Jackups, R., Holubkov, R., Wallendorf, M., Doctor, A. 2017; 18 (2): 134-142


    RBC distribution width is reported to be an independent predictor of outcome in adults with a variety of conditions. We sought to determine if RBC distribution width is associated with morbidity or mortality in critically ill children.Retrospective observational study.Tertiary PICU.All admissions to St. Louis Children's Hospital PICU between January 1, 2005, and December 31, 2012.We collected demographics, laboratory values, hospitalization characteristics, and outcomes. We calculated the relative change in RBC distribution width from admission RBC distribution width to the highest RBC distribution width during the first 7 days of hospitalization. Our primary outcome was ICU mortality or use of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation as a composite. Secondary outcomes were ICU- and ventilator-free days.We identified 3,913 eligible subjects with an estimated mortality (by Pediatric Index of Mortality 2) of 2.94% ± 9.25% and an actual ICU mortality of 2.91%. For the study cohort, admission RBC distribution width was 14.12% ± 1.89% and relative change in RBC distribution width was 2.63% ± 6.23%. On univariate analysis, both admission RBC distribution width and relative change in RBC distribution width correlated with mortality or the use of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (odds ratio, 1.19 [95% CI, 1.12-1.27] and odds ratio, 1.06 [95% CI, 1.04-1.08], respectively; p < 0.001). After adjusting for confounding variables, including severity of illness, both admission RBC distribution width (odds ratio, 1.13; 95% CI, 1.03-1.24) and relative change in RBC distribution width (odds ratio, 1.04; 95% CI, 1.01-1.07) remained independently associated with ICU mortality or the use of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. Admission RBC distribution width and relative change in RBC distribution width both weakly correlated with fewer ICU- (r = 0.038) and ventilator-free days (r = 0.05) (p < 0.001).Independent of illness severity in critically ill children, admission RBC distribution width is associated with ICU mortality and morbidity. These data suggest that RBC distribution width may be a biomarker for RBC injury that is of sufficient magnitude to influence critical illness outcome, possibly via oxygen delivery impairment.

    View details for DOI 10.1097/PCC.0000000000001017

    View details for Web of Science ID 000394305600011

    View details for PubMedID 27832023

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5291765

  • Controlling Phlebotomy Volume Diminishes PICU Transfusion: Implementation Processes and Impact. Pediatrics Steffen, K. n., Doctor, A. n., Hoerr, J. n., Gill, J. n., Markham, C. n., Brown, S. M., Cohen, D. n., Hansen, R. n., Kryzer, E. n., Richards, J. n., Small, S. n., Valentine, S. n., York, J. L., Proctor, E. K., Spinella, P. C. 2017; 140 (2)


    Phlebotomy excess contributes to anemia in PICU patients and increases the likelihood of red blood cell transfusion, which is associated with risk of adverse outcomes. Excessive phlebotomy reduction (EPR) strategies may reduce the need for transfusion, but have not been evaluated in a PICU population. We hypothesized that EPR strategies, facilitated by implementation science methods, would decrease excess blood drawn and reduce transfusion frequency.Quantitative and qualitative methods were used. Patient and blood draw data were collected with survey and focus group data to evaluate knowledge and attitudes before and after EPR intervention. The Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research was used to interpret qualitative data. Multivariate regression was employed to adjust for potential confounders for blood overdraw volume and transfusion incidence.Populations were similar pre- and postintervention. EPR strategies decreased blood overdraw volumes 62% from 5.5 mL (interquartile range 1-23) preintervention to 2.1 mL (interquartile range 0-7.9 mL) postintervention (P < .001). Fewer patients received red blood cell transfusions postintervention (32.1% preintervention versus 20.7% postintervention, P = .04). Regression analyses showed that EPR strategies reduced blood overdraw volume (P < .001) and lowered transfusion frequency (P = .05). Postintervention surveys reflected a high degree of satisfaction (93%) with EPR strategies, and 97% agreed EPR was a priority postintervention.Implementation science methods aided in the selection of EPR strategies and enhanced acceptance which, in this cohort, reduced excessive overdraw volumes and transfusion frequency. Larger trials are needed to determine if this approach can be applied in broader PICU populations.

    View details for DOI 10.1542/peds.2016-2480

    View details for PubMedID 28701427

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5527666

  • Determination of Genetic Predisposition to Patent Ductus Arteriosus in Preterm Infants PEDIATRICS Dagle, J. M., Lepp, N. T., Cooper, M. E., Schaa, K. L., Kelsey, K. J., Orr, K. L., Caprau, D., Zimmerman, C. R., Steffen, K. M., Johnson, K. J., Marazita, M. L., Murray, J. C. 2009; 123 (4): 1116-1123


    Patent ductus arteriosus is a common morbidity associated with preterm birth. The incidence of patent ductus arteriosus increases with decreasing gestational age to approximately 70% in infants born at 25 weeks' gestation. Our major goal was to determine if genetic risk factors play a role in patent ductus arteriosus seen in preterm infants.We investigated whether single-nucleotide polymorphisms in genes that regulate smooth muscle contraction, xenobiotic detoxification, inflammation, and other processes are markers for persistent patency of ductus arteriosus. Initially, 377 single-nucleotide polymorphisms from 130 genes of interest were evaluated in DNA samples collected from 204 infants with a gestational age of <32 weeks. A family-based association test was performed on genotyping data to evaluate overtransmission of alleles.P values of <.01 were detected for genetic variations found in 7 genes. This prompted additional analysis with an additional set of 162 infants, focusing on the 7 markers with initial P values of <.01, and 1 genetic variant in the angiotensin II type I receptor previously shown to be related to patent ductus arteriosus. Of the initial positive signals, single-nucleotide polymorphisms in the transcription factor AP-2 beta and tumor necrosis factor receptor-associated factor 1 genes remained significant. Additional haplotype analysis revealed genetic variations in prostacyclin synthase to be associated with patent ductus arteriosus. An angiotensin II type I receptor polymorphism previously reported to be associated with patent ductus arteriosus after prophylactic indomethacin administration was not associated with the presence of a patent ductus arteriosus in our population.Overall, our data support a role for genetic variations in transcription factor AP-2 beta, tumor necrosis factor receptor-associated factor 1, and prostacyclin synthase in the persistent patency of the ductus arteriosus seen in preterm infants.

    View details for DOI 10.1542/peds.2008-0313

    View details for Web of Science ID 000264663100006

    View details for PubMedID 19336370

  • Evaluation of fetal and maternal genetic variation in the progesterone receptor gene for contributions to preterm birth PEDIATRIC RESEARCH Ehn, N. L., Cooper, M. E., Orr, K., Shi, M., Johnson, M. K., Caprau, D., Dagle, J., Steffen, K., Johnson, K., Marazita, M. L., Merrill, D., Murray, J. C. 2007; 62 (5): 630-635


    Progesterone plays a critical role in the maintenance of pregnancy and has been effectively used to prevent recurrences of preterm labor. We investigated the role of genetic variation in the progesterone receptor (PGR) gene in modulating risks for preterm labor by examining both maternal and fetal effects. Cases were infants delivered prematurely at the University of Iowa. DNA was collected from the mother, infant, and father. Seventeen single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) and an insertion deletion variant in PGR were studied in 415 families. Results were then analyzed using transmission disequilibrium tests and log-linear-model-based analysis. DNA sequencing of the PGR gene was also carried out in 92 mothers of preterm infants. We identified significant associations between SNP in the PGR for both mother and preterm infant. No etiologic sequence variants were found in the coding sequence of the PGR gene. This study suggests that genetic variation in the PGR gene of either the mother or the fetus may trigger preterm labor.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000250477000022

    View details for PubMedID 17805208

  • Maternal and fetal variation in genes of cholesterol metabolism is associated with preterm delivery JOURNAL OF PERINATOLOGY Steffen, K. M., Cooper, M. E., Shi, M., Caprau, D., Simhan, H. N., Dagle, J. M., Marazita, M. L., Murray, J. C. 2007; 27 (11): 672-680


    To examine the contribution of variants in fetal and maternal cholesterol metabolism genes in preterm delivery (PTD).A total of 40 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 16 genes related to cholesterol metabolism were examined for 414 preterm infants (gestational ages 22 to 36 weeks; comprising 305 singletons and 109 twins) and at least 1 parent. Fetal effects were assessed using the transmission disequilibrium test (TDT) for each SNP, followed by a log linear model-based approach to utilize families with missing parental genotypes for those SNPs showing significance under TDT. Genetic variant effects were examined for a role in PTD, gestational age and birth weight. Maternal effects were estimated using a log linear model-based approach.Among singleton gestations, suggestive association (P<0.01 without adjusting for multiple comparisons) was found between birth weight and fetal DHCR7 gene/SNP combinations (rs1630498, P=0.002 and rs2002064, P=0.003). Among all gestations, suggestive associations were found between PTD and fetal HMGCR (rs2303152, P=0.002) and APOA1 (rs 5070, P=0.004). The result for HMGCR was further supported by the log linear model-based test in the single births (P=0.007) and in all births (P=0.006). New associations (APOE and ABCA1) were observed when birth weight was normalized for gestational age suggesting independent effects of variants on birth weight separate from effects on PTD. Testing for maternally mediated genetic effects has identified suggestive association between ABCA1 (rs4149313, P=0.004) and decreased gestational age.Variants in maternal and fetal genes for cholesterol metabolism were associated with PTD and decreased birth weight or gestational age in this study. Genetic markers may serve as one mechanism to identify high-risk mothers and fetuses for targeted nutritional treatment and/or prevention of low birth weight or PTD.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/

    View details for Web of Science ID 000250444500002

    View details for PubMedID 17855807