January 23, 1998

This emergency room is strictly for kids

This emergency room is strictly for kids

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Nurse Joy Wheeler gave a tour to Jason and Michelle Keil at last week's grand opening of the new Pediatric Emergency Department. Photo by Donna Jones Bailey.

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At the grand opening, Dr. Corey Slovis (left) and Ann Eischeid, R.N., chatted with Christian music artist Carman, on hand to donate televisions and VCRs to the new unit. Photo by Donna Jones Bailey.

Emergency medical care for children in Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky took a step forward this week with the opening of the Vanderbilt Children's Hospital Pediatric Emergency Department.

For the first time, sick and injured children in the region can receive emergency medical treatment in a completely separate, child-oriented environment ‹ all supported by the expert specialized pediatric services of Vanderbilt Children's Hospital.

"The trend toward separate pediatric emergency departments has been developing for a number of years," said Dr. Andrea C. Bracikowski, director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital and assistant professor of Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics.

"It's clearly demanded by parents and families who want their children treated by people who know how to take care of children, in a place that's geared toward taking care of children. That's what the community needs and what the community deserves."

The new Children's Hospital Emergency Department is located on the first floor of The Vanderbilt Clinic, directly across the ambulance driveway from the main Vanderbilt Emergency Department.

The number of children coming to Vanderbilt for emergency care has grown steadily over the past several years, Bracikowski said. Currently, Vanderbilt sees about 1,500 pediatric emergency patients each month ‹ an average of about 50 every day.

Since 1994, Vanderbilt has provided a separate treatment area for pediatric emergency patients during the busy evenings and on weekends. However, the area was temporary space used by other adult services on weekdays, and even when the pediatric area was available, children and adults were mixed in the triage and registration areas.

"We have a very busy Emergency Department and Trauma Center," Bracikowski said. "By necessity, the ER was often not a very child-friendly place. We were able to decrease waiting times with the temporary space, but it was still not the ideal situation for our young patients and their parents."

The new Emergency Department (ED) offers a completely separate experience for sick and injured children, ages birth through age 17, between the hours of 8 a.m.-2 a.m.

During the wee hours of the morning ‹ when the fewest number of children typically need emergency services ‹ pediatric patients continue to be seen in the main ED. If patient volume warrants, plans call for the Pediatric ED to expand to 24-hour service in the future, Bracikowski said.

An Emergency Department designed especially for children is important because children are not just small adults, Bracikowski said. They arrive with medical and emotional needs that require specialized care and equipment.

From the bright, child-appealing decor to staffing, the physical and operational design of the new Pediatric ED supports the Vanderbilt Children's Hospital philosophy of family-centered care. Two waiting areas give parents close access to the rooms where their children are being treated. Rooms are available for private consultation. And Child Life specialists are on hand to help meet the emotional needs of children and parents.

There are 17 treatment rooms, including four critical care/trauma rooms strategically situated next to the nurses station. The department also includes office space, a break room and a conference room.

The department is staffed by faculty physicians who have expertise in pediatric emergency medicine or emergency medicine with a special interest caring for children, Bracikowski said.

Other staff include nurses with experience in pediatrics, pediatric critical care or pediatric emergency medicine; pediatric and emergency medicine residents; and Child Life specialists. Like in other part of Children's Hospital, the Child Life specialists in the ED help meet the emotional needs of patients and families and prepare them for the procedures they will undergo.

"We offer care by physicians and nurses who are the experts in this region in taking care of sick and injured children," Bracikowski said. "We can say that with a lot of confidence. We take care of the most kids, the sickest kids and we have the subspecialty back-up of Children's Hospital. This is where anyone with a sick or injured child should be."

Bracikowski said parents should always contact their pediatrician or family physician before coming to the Emergency Department, except in clearly emergency or life-threatening cases.

The Vanderbilt Children's Hospital Emergency Department can be reached at 343-2996.