This is an informative blog post dedicated to all parents. Today I will be discussing some common concerns parents have when it comes to bringing their children to the ER. I will also be enlightening you on other options you have that you might not be aware of. As you may or may not know, I enjoy writing posts that can either teach you something new or give you another perspective on things. Please note, this will also be a wake up call for some parents.. so you’ve been warned..but don’t be uptight, it’s educational!
To give you some background, I have my Bachelor’s degree in Nursing and have been a Pediatric ER nurse for 4 years. I am now also the mother of a beautiful 8 month old girl named Vayda.
*DISCLOSURE: This is a blog, which means this is my own opinion from my personal experiences as a nurse. You, as a parent, are responsible for your own child and the decisions you make in his/her care. I am not responsible for anyone or the decisions you make.*
SO WHAT IS AN EMERGENCY?
If your child can not breathe or is having difficulty breathing, this is an emergency. Something that is LIFE THREATENING is an EMERGENCY. I’m only going to name a few so you can get an idea but severe broken bones, dehydration, seizures, severe/persistent vomiting & diarrhea and/or blood in vomit/stool (which means your shit- hehe), trauma, profuse bleeding (a lot of bleeding, like a lot! Not just a little scratch), mental health concerns (suicidal, depression, schizophrenia, etc.), severe head injuries with loss of consciousness/vomiting/lethargy (look up what lethargic means and descriptions, a lot of people use it lightly and aren’t using the word appropriately). This is just so you can get an idea of what we worry about in the EMERGENCY ROOM.
WHAT ABOUT FEVER?
There are exceptions to this answer. Fever in a newborn (>100.4), cancer patients, or fever everyday consistently for >5 -6 days should come to the ER. Otherwise, if you have a child at home who is >6 months you can just manage the fever at home using Motrin/Tylenol (Call your pediatrician or follow the instructions on the box for dosage. If you want an exact dosage for your child you must have an accurate weight on them), then take your child to the pediatrician when an appointment becomes available or to an urgent care if you can’t wait. FYI: Do not give Motrin to a baby less than 6 months, use Tylenol if necessary.
If you run to the ER on the first day your child has fever and they are otherwise eating/drinking okay, happy, etc. your going to be sent home with Motrin/Tylenol.. therefore congratulations, you just got a nice hospital bill for something you could’ve just done at home. Guys! You need to change your perspective on fever and stop being so scared of it. Thomas Sydenham, a famous English Physician said,”Fever is a mighty engine which Nature brings into the world for conquest of her enemies.” Think of “Fever” as “Fighter.” Fever is a defense mechanism against whatever virus or infection you have.
Yes, you will still need to see a doctor if fever continues for more than a couple of days, but you don’t need to run to the ER if the fever just started a couple minutes/hours ago. If you can manage the fever at home and bring your child to the pediatrician instead of exposing them to more things in the ER, then do that!
So first of all, ear pain is NOT an EMERGENCY! I had an experience in the Peds ER where one day a mother came out of the room YELLING at the nurse because her child was crying with ear pain. No one likes to see their child in pain BUT if you are coming into the EMERGENCY ROOM, this is not a priority for us! This mother should have really been yelling at herself for not giving pain medicine prior to coming. Parents, there is such a thing as Motrin and Tylenol for children! You cannot complain that a nurse is insensitive to your child’s ear pain when she may have a child in the next room who has pain from CANCER! Do you understand that? Good. Besides that, you just brought your child somewhere that is germ invested for something that you could have either managed at home, went to the pediatrician for, or gone to an urgent care facility (granted all these places also have germs but not as much).
“BUT GOOGLE SAID…………..”
Listen people… google is the worst thing you can turn to when trying to search for the cause of your child’s illness. I’m guilty of it myself but you need to understand that although Google and WebMD are great tools we use in order to help us try to figure out what is happening during all the chaos, the truth is, Google and WebMD are not Doctors. At this point, you come into the hospital already anxious and irritable since you’ve made yourself believe that your child has a certain disease that in actuality they don’t have; you then become upset with the doctor if they don’t agree with the diagnosis you’ve created in your mind but you can’t forget.. Google & WebMD are not doctors. Google & WebMD cannot assess your child and see the bigger picture, it can only give you a list of diseases that are related to certain symptoms.
I hear a lot of complaints on wait time. So firstly, if we’re not rushing you into a room when you come in, congratulations, your child is going to make it. You don’t want us to rush your kid in when you come in because that clearly means something and it’s not something good.
When you come to the EMERGENCY ROOM, your going to see other kids going in before you, why? Because we’re the ER and we’re there for life threatening things. All the things that I named above (refer to”what is an emergency”) will go in front of your ear pain, sore throat, rash, etc. any day. FYI: We’re not a pediatric office, clinic, etc. We don’t make appointments and we definitely don’t go in the order that you come in, so you just have to accept that if your coming to the ER.
So wait time you say? At any point in time emergent things can come in through that emergency room door. Literally, 5 asthma kids can walk in through that door at once and all 5 will go in in front of you. This is the reality of an ER, there are other resources and places you can go to for non-life-threatening things.
“BUT OUR DOCTOR SENT US HERE….”
I can’t tell you how many times parents have said this to me with the assumption that they get to skip the line. Do you know how many doctors send their patient’s to the ER? A LOT. Just because your doctor sent you to the ER doesn’t necessarily mean your going to be seen before other people. There could be numerous reasons your doctor could have sent your child to the ER .. for example, procedures/blood work/tests/imaging (ultrasound, xray, CT, etc.) that they don’t do or have in their office, sutures (if they don’t do it in their office), they want you to get a second opinion, etc. If your doctor believes you have to be seen for a true emergency, they won’t even let you drive out of their office, they’ll get an ambulance to bring you. So no people.. just because your child’s doctor sent you to the ER along with the other 100 people that they sent to us doesn’t mean you get to come in first. No matter what, we still see patient’s in accordance to their severity.
WHY DOES IT TAKE SO LONG FOR THE DOCTOR TO SEE US IN THE ER?
Unlike nurses, where each nurse is assigned between 4-7 patients (which can still be alot for us if we have very critical patients who require a lot of medications/procedures),doctors are assigned to more than that. If we have a patient who is there for something emergent, the doctor will be giving all their attention to that very sick patient,so it can be a very long time until the doctor comes to see you if your not there for something life-threatening. It takes a long time to stabilize a critical patient. If you happen to come in on a day where it’s not that busy or there aren’t as many critically sick patients, you could be in and out but the ER is UNPREDICTABLE, therefore, your wait time will always be UNPREDICTABLE.
SO WHERE DO WE GO?
I can’t speak for all states/countries but here in New Jersey, you can find a pediatrician’s office that has extended hours, and Pediatric Urgent Care Centers. There aren’t many places open late but these are the pediatric offices and pediatric urgent care centers that I know of that have extended hours:
-Pediatric Office: Nuheights Pediatrics located in Clifton, NJ open until 8pm.
-Pediatric Office: Riverside Medical Group offers extended hours at their Secaucus, NJ location from 7am-12am.
-Pediatric Urgent Care: PM Pediatrics- they have multiple locations in New Jersey/NY that are open 12pm-12am.
-Kinder Pediatric Urgent Care: they have 2 locations, Woodbridge, NJ & Totowa, NJ, they are open everyday until 11pm.
–> FYI: Urgent cares can give IV fluids, do X-ray’s, and some blood work so use them as a resource!
I hope I’ve answered some of the most common questions/concerns in regards to coming to the Pediatric Emergency Room. Let me know in the comments if you have any other questions or things you’d like me to discuss.
Don’t forget to share this on your social media and/or other parents if you feel like it might be useful to them. <3
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