Treating Children with Special Needs in the Emergency Room

Anyone who likes going to urgent care or the emergency room, raise your hand!


Anyone? No one?


That’s right. Nobody likes it for any reason, anytime. It’s stressful, often unplanned and disorganized, and can be a frustrating experience. I put my doctor head together with a few parents who live this firsthand, and we came up with some ideas that might help make the journey just a little easier.


One of the most helpful things you can do takes place before an emergency ever happens: that is PREPARE for the “just in case.” Make a detailed list of your child’s medical and surgical history, including all medicines with strength and dose. I can’t tell you how many times a parent will forget to mention their child’s underlying diagnosis when I meet them for the first time. This is not because they want to keep something from me. It’s just not the first thing on their mind in an emergency. A child with a brain shunt may have stomach pain and vomiting that doesn’t SEEM related to the shunt, but it may very well be. So having a handy and complete summary of your child’s medical “story” is a godsend to most clinicians, and can help your child and save time too. Same thing goes with any medical equipment or special dietary items (like liquid nutrition). Bring these. Just in case.


Also, I want to empower all you caregivers out there to remember that you have as much expertise about your child as the medical team. After all, YOU live with your child every day, so don’t be afraid to speak up. Tell the doctor about the details that are unique to your own child, and tell them what you think, even if it “goes against” the medical convention. It’s a team effort, friends, and just as I’ll ask you to be patient and flexible with the medical team, the clinicians need to LISTEN to you and incorporate your input as well. This is a big deal. If you feel like you aren’t being heard, then by all means speak up and say just that. If you do this in a collaborative and respectful way, any solid medical provider should pause and redirect their focus to make sure you are being heard.


You are your child’s best advocate!


It nearly always helps to have your doctor give a “heads up” phone call to the urgent care or emergency room staff to let them know that you are coming in. Getting all the doctors’ brains on the same page really can make the visit go smoother. So please call your doctor if you can before you head on in to urgent care so that this communication can take place.


I wish you every good vibe as you navigate what can sometimes be a very tricky road!


That being said, if you can try to be as well prepared as possible for an unexpected trip to the emergency room, it will help you to focus on what’s really important: comforting your child.


This week's guest blog post is from Dr. Christina Johns. Dr. Christina Johns is a pediatrician and pediatric emergency physician who joins PM Pediatrics as their Senior Medical Advisor. As the face of this cutting-edge organization providing specialized pediatric urgent care, she is responsible for sharing the wealth of expertise of the PM Pediatrics staff with patients and families everywhere.