Your toddler wakes up a 2 am wailing and pulling on her ear.
Your 10-year-old tries to do “wheelies” on his bike. You find him sitting in the driveway clutching his arm, and it’s swelling before your eyes.
You find your 15-year-old curled up on her bed. When you ask what’s wrong, she tells you she doesn’t want “to be here anymore.”
In these instances, and so many others, it’s important to get the right help for your child. But children aren’t small adults. They need the emergency care of specially trained professionals that can best be found in pediatric emergency rooms (ERs).
Trained With Kids in Mind
Pediatric ERs are staffed by providers who are experts in treating the unique physical and mental health needs of children. After graduating from medical school, physicians complete three years of residency training in pediatrics or emergency medicine and a three-year fellowship in pediatric emergency medicine. Pediatric emergency nurses also receive specialized training, including in things that make an ER visit scary – like administering shots and inserting IVs in little arms.
Minimizing Anxiety and Pain
Trained pediatric caregivers understand the importance of listening to parents and communicating with children based on their stage of development. They have experience comforting and easing anxiety for you and your child.
The UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center Kid’s Comfort Promise is an evidence-based protocol where age-appropriate steps are taken to minimize pain and anxiety from shots, blood draws and IV lines. For example, we use topical anesthetic sprays and creams so that needles don’t hurt as much. Depending upon the child’s age, we may have them sit on a parent’s lap while inserting a needle instead of having them lie in a bed. We may even suggest that infants are breastfed or given sugar water to provide additional comfort.
When issues are more serious, it’s important to know that providers with additional expertise are ready to aid in your child’s treatment. Our Children’s Medical Center works closely with pediatric specialists in heart care, bone care and many other clinical specialties to provide children with the advanced care they need.
UMass Memorial’s children’s ER is also the only Level 1 pediatric trauma center in the region. To earn Level 1 emergency care designation, an ER must have systems in place, facilities designed, and staff trained to care for children who have experienced traumatic injuries. The ER must be able to activate a team of pediatric trauma specialists at any time, have pediatric operating rooms staffed by pediatric anesthesiologists available at any time, and have a pediatric imaging center with a pediatric radiologist.
The Environment Matters
But clinical expertise is just part of the equation when it comes to emergency care for little ones. An environment where children and parents are treated with respect and dignity is also key.
The experience in a children’s ER is quite different than an adult facility. For example, a pediatric emergency room offers child life specialists who have advanced education and are skilled in distraction techniques, explain procedures in kid-friendly language, and coach both children and parents through the visit. These team members focus on ensuring a family has the best possible experience, whether by suggesting tactics to engage a child waiting for a procedure or delivering a warm blanket to provide a little extra comfort.
So How Do You Know When to Go to the ER?
While a cut that can’t be closed by an adhesive strip or a tumble that results in a hard blow to the head are definite indicators that a child needs care immediately, sometimes it can be difficult to know if a trip to the ER is necessary. A list of reasons to take your child to the ER can be found here.
Every pediatrician office has 24/7 coverage, so you should always be able to get in touch with someone to talk about your child’s health. However, you should never hesitate to visit the ER if you’re worried about your child, especially when it comes to mental health issues.
Pediatric ERs are equipped to treat children who are experiencing anxiety, depression or other mental health problems. If you notice your child is struggling with their emotions – especially if they’re thinking of hurting themselves – take them immediately.
The Right Place for the Right Care
It’s important to know the best place to take your child before you need immediate care. An emergency room designed especially for children can give you the peace of mind of knowing you’re in the best place for your child to receive appropriate care whenever the need arises.
This blog post is part of our Simply Women initiative that caters to the unique health care needs of women and their families.
Guest Blogger: Theodore Macnow, MD, Medical Director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine, UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center