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Who Cares for Your Child in the Pediatric ER?

October 06, 2021

High fevers, life-threatening trauma and severe wounds are just a few issues pediatric emergency medicine doctors treat regularly. No matter the ailment, bringing a child to the emergency room (ER) can be a stressful experience. The medical experts and caregivers in the pediatric ER are trained to calm your concerns while providing the best possible treatment for your child. 

Common Pediatric Emergencies and Procedures 

The most frequent pediatric emergencies include:

  • High fever

  • Abdominal pain

  • Physical injuries 

The types of issues pediatric ER doctors see often depends on the season. In summer months, the pediatric ER gets more drowning patients, and in the winter there are more asthmatic flare-ups. 

The most common procedure in the pediatric ER is giving stitches or using surgical glue to repair cuts. Sometimes, pediatric ER physicians need to sedate a child to set a broken bone, drain a skin infection or administer stitches to a complex cut. Sedation safely eases pain and anxiety for the child while the physician treats the issue, avoiding the operating room. 

Pediatric ER Is Not ‘First Come, First Seen’ 

Specialized nurses evaluate every patient upon arrival to determine the severity of injury or illness, so the ER is not first come, first seen. 

This system — known as “triage” — is used to determine which problem requires the most-immediate attention. For example, if one patient has severe burns and another ant bites, the patient with burns would likely be seen first. 

Who Works in the Pediatric ER?

Physicians and nurses in the pediatric ER need to establish a trusted relationship with each family quickly to determine diagnosis and treatment. Patience and teamwork are essential, with constant communication between a network of medical and other professionals needed to provide the best care.

  • Pediatric Emergency Medicine Doctors

Pediatric emergency medicine doctors undergo extensive training in general pediatrics as well as pediatric emergencies. Studying under myriad subspecialties, these physicians handle the wide variety of traumas entering the ER. 

  • Pediatric Emergency Medicine Nurses

Nurses trained in pediatrics can recognize subtle changes in a child’s behavior or vital signs that can be critical to their care and help save a life, often while caring for several patients at once. From newborn to adult, these nurses are skilled in calming and assessing all age groups.

  • Child Life Specialists

Child Life Specialists often meet families in triage or stay with a child brought via ambulance until a parent arrives. They offer emotional support, calm anxieties and advocate for your child. For example, if a child needs an IV placed, a child life specialist may recommend “freezy spray” to numb the area, or advocate for intranasal medication in lieu of a shot.

  • Social Workers and Other Non-medical Professionals

Doctors and nurses rely on the expertise of social workers and patient-family counselors to evaluate nonmedical issues. For instance, if there is concern from the physician that a patient is being bullied in school or abused in the home, these professionals are skilled at picking up cues from children. 

It’s important for parents to communicate with their pediatrician to determine whether a visit to the ER is needed. 

During the pandemic, physicians began seeing many instances of delayed treatment due to fear of contracting COVID-19 at the ER. Timely care is key, and hospitals continue to take great care to create a safe environment for patients and staff.

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