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Saturday, April 4, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Tips to keep your child’s trip to the ER from being too traumatic

 (Roberge / Tribune News Service)
(Roberge / Tribune News Service)
Tribune News Service

A trip to the emergency room is never on the agenda. If you ever find yourself taking your child for emergency medical care, you need to know what to expect and how to be prepared.

First, you’ll need to know where to go. If your child has a serious illness or injury, you need to head to the closest health care facility. To receive optimal pediatric care, you should seek a pediatric urgent care center or pediatric emergency department in your area.

Once you know the best location to take your child, you need to consider wait times. With flu and respiratory season on the horizon, you should expect heavy volumes of patients. The busiest ER season is typically fall/winter, and the evenings can be the busiest time of day. With that said, there’s always an element of unpredictability when it comes to the ER. Be prepared for the busiest, and then hope you’re one of only a few waiting to be seen.

Patients are often prioritized according to acuity, meaning the sickest are seen first. So, don’t get upset if you have to wait longer than someone else. Once you’re called back, it’s not uncommon to continue to wait. Waiting just happens to be the necessary beast when it comes to receiving quality care.

After understanding wait times, there are just a few rules you’ll want to know:

    Visitation: Many emergency departments enforce some sort of visitation policy for their patients. An example of this might be having only two adults at a time in the child’s treatment room. This is for the safety of the patient and family and to avoid creating too much chaos and confusion while care is administered. If your first instinct is to call everyone and have them meet you at the hospital, consider re-routing them to your house to watch your other children or to another gathering spot where you can call one person with an update to share with the rest of the group. It’s always good to have a backup child-care plan and to establish a few people to offer support to you and your family if you ever need it.

    Food and drink: In addition to restrictions on visitation, many emergency rooms do not allow patients to have anything to eat or drink until the doctor says it’s OK. The main reason is to protect your child if he needs to receive any medications that require an empty stomach. If you have a child who is typically cranky when hungry, consider yourself warned. If you elect to feed him, just know that you could end up delaying his care by hours until it’s safe to give him what he needs.

With these logistical things in mind, what’s next in preparing and supporting your child? Consider the following:

  • Pack some familiar comfort items, toys and activities to bring with you. Since you might be waiting awhile, these items will help you and your child pass the time. If your child requires a special comfort item to rest or feel at ease, don’t hesitate to bring it.
  • Advocate for your child. If his care plan requires painful procedures, ask the medical staff to educate you on how they plan to manage your child’s pain. Also, ask them to give you a role in supporting your child. They should be able to tell you how you’ll be the most helpful and supportive in any scenario, and they should also have a strategy for helping your child confront anything that comes his way. If they don’t, develop one with them.

    Prepare your child to meet lots of people. The ER is a multidisciplinary team, and your child will encounter several medical and non-medical team members. Inform your child of everyone’s job when they enter the treatment room and what that person is there to do.

    Maintain routine. If your child is so sick that you’ve decided to bring him to the hospital at 1 a.m., see what you can do about maintaining his routine as much as possible. Create a dark and relaxing setting for him to attempt to go to sleep and wake him only when necessary.

    Be present. Parents are guilty of getting wrapped up in the inconvenience of being in the ER, focusing on making phone calls and dealing with the stressful situation. Take a breath and remember that your child needs you. Focus on him and let him know that you’re there. The rest will take care of itself.

Pack these items for you and your child if you have the luxury of time before heading to a hospital near you:

    Phone charger

    Cash/coins for vending machines and parking

    Insurance card and ID

    Change of clothes/toiletries (for possible overnight stay)

    Snacks for you and for your child, if he can have them

    Toys, activities, books

    Comfort items (stuffed animal, pillow, blanket, pacifier)

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