Child Health Tamar Raucher | 6 years ago

Popsicles and Pint Sized Gowns: How an ER Gets Kid Friendly

The emergency room can be a scary place. Pain and anxiety are commonplace for even the bravest of adults – so just imagine how hard it is to be there as a child.

The staff at Levine Children’s Hospital’s emergency room knows this all too well. It’s why they go the extra mile to make this space a little less frightening, and a little more fun. “A lot goes into making an emergency department kid friendly,” says pediatric emergency medicine doctor Amy Puchalski, MD. “It’s so much more than just giving children smaller hospital gowns.” The difference starts as soon as you walk through the doors. In addition to screenings for infectious diseases (standard procedure when someone is admitted to an emergency room), kids are screened for physical abuse, tobacco and drug use, mental health conditions – even human trafficking. And, yes, the hospital gowns really are petite. But, so is everything else! From IV catheters to oxygen masks, instruments and supplies are scaled down to fit little frames. Exam rooms don’t just have beds – they have cribs. Even the blood-pressure cuffs are miniaturized. Another big difference? The pediatric emergency room has child life specialists – trained workers who use play, games and activities to lessen children’s fear and anxiety of being in the hospital. To get a 5-year-old ready for a surgery, for example, a child life specialist could explain the procedure to them in a kid-friendly way, show them the equipment that will be used, and keep them calm and distracted with iPad games until the surgery begins. And when it comes time for potentially unpleasant procedures, the staff works extra hard to lessen children’s pain. Kids are numbed before nurses start an IV or before doctors do a test like a spinal tap; and, very often, they’re given medicine to allow them to sleep during this kind of procedure. “Compared to the adult side, kids in our children’s emergency department are 75 times more likely to be sedated,” says Randy Cordle, MD, a pediatric emergency medicine physician. Above all, the staff never forgets they’re dealing with children. It’s common to see doctors and nurses walking down the hall wearing festive clothing or fun prints. (Past occasions have included dressing up as Dr. Seuss characters on the author’s birthday and donning fluffy skirts for “Tutu Tuesdays.”) And on top of the medications they stock, there’s another very important thing they make sure to have at all times: “We always keep popsicles on hand,” says Dr. Cordle. [gallery type="slideshow" size="full" ids="3356,3355,3353"]