A Day in the Life of a Pediatric Emergency Room

Flat screen televisions, bright colors and popsicles are items that might seem out of place in a hospital, but in the Pediatric Emergency Center (PEC) at Saint Francis, these kid-friendly incentives are the norm.

Walking down the halls in the PEC, the first thing you are apt to notice is not the high-tech equipment, though it exists, nor the qualified team of medical professionals, though they are working, but the cartoon-themed decor.

Shadow box art referencing beloved blockbusters such as Disney’s Toy Story and Cars adorn the walls, and dinosaur magnets are playfully juxtaposed against a dry erase board housing patient information.

Patient rooms are fitted with flat screen televisions broadcasting movies that help distract children from unpleasant procedures or tedious testing. Staff in the PEC, mostly credentialed or experienced in pediatrics, wear vivid colors and prints hoping to put children at ease. Stickers and popsicles are a few of the rewards kids receive when they visit.

The Pediatric Emergency Center, which opened its doors in July 2008, serves a special purpose at Saint Francis and is one of the only emergency centers of its kind in Northeastern Oklahoma. Dr. Ethan Warlick, medical director at the PEC explains the difference between the PEC and the regular emergency facilities:

“Segmenting the pediatric side of emergency care helps us evaluate children and move them in and out in a timely manner,” he says. “The parents appreciate seeing nurses and physicians who customarily deal with children and their families.”

While most all emergency rooms have the proper resources to treat children, Dr. Warlick explains that having a separate area for children can improve care for the patients as well as contribute to overall efficiency.

Saint Francis is expecting to see 15,000 kids come through the PEC in the following year. Patients come from Tulsa and surrounding areas, and many drive two to three hours to consult with the pediatric physicians. Some of the most common ailments that bring children to the PEC are upper respiratory illnesses, asthma, fractures, and lacerations.

If a child needs emergency care, it is imperative he or she is brought to the Emergency Center and not the Children’s Hospital, which is where patients will be transferred should they need medical attention after their visit to the PEC. Jan Emmons, director of Saint Francis’ Trauma Emergency Center, stresses the importance of coming to the PEC for emergency needs.

If you are unsure about whether or not your child needs emergency care, Dr. Warlick suggests confirming your fears with a primary care physician or nurseline as a good first step. Although it can sometimes be difficult to ascertain the level of care your child needs, Dr. Warlick has observed that children’s sincerity and honesty are usually revealing.

With children, “What you see is what you get,” says Dr. Warlick. “They tend not to fabricate what is going on.”

It is important to keep in mind that parents play a vital role in the medical process. Dr. Warlick explains, “We expect a parent to come prepared to be an advocate… but, more importantly, to provide support to the child during difficult and sometimes painful situations that arise for testing and treatment.”

The staff at the PEC adopts an integral approach to treating their patients and strives to include the entire family. “We encourage parents to speak up and ask questions, to promote an understanding of the situation or needs so that they are comfortable sharing their understanding with the child,” said Dr. Warlick.

Although Dr. Warlick enjoys his time in the PEC, he has some tips for keeping children out of the hospital. His advice is to use car restraints, get your children vaccinated, do not let your child out of sight around pools, lakes or ponds, beware of any dog that might bite, and make sure that children wear helmets on bikes and skateboards.

“I can’t imagine doing anything else,” says Dr. Warlick of his job. “As a parent myself, I know how difficult it can be when your child is sick. The most rewarding part for me is when a parent leaves with an understanding of what is going on and I have a child leaving knowing he or she will get better.”

Categories: Infant/Pre-School, Little Ones