Pediatric Emergency Center Provides Safe, Child-Centric Care

Published in Greater Washington Area - Fall 2020

The Shaw Family Pediatric Emergency Center, Suburban Hospital’s pediatric emergency department, sees 100–120 patients a week, from birth to age 18, and remains a safe option for care during the coronavirus pandemic. The center, which opened in 2003, works to ensure that children receive the outstanding care Suburban Hospital is known for in a child-friendly environment.

The center has its own waiting area and treatment rooms, adjacent to but separate from the adult emergency department, which allows access to the same experts as the adult emergency department, as well as pediatricians and pediatric nurses.

Dominique Foulkes, M.D., the medical director and chair of pediatrics at the Shaw Family Pediatric Emergency Center, explains the ins and outs of the center, including when parents should take their child to the ER rather than an urgent care center and how the center works to make it an easy experience for kids and their families.

Q: What services does the pediatric emergency center offer?

A: Because we have access to the full range of hospital and emergency services, we offer a variety of specialty care, including orthopaedics; plastic surgery; ear, nose and throat doctors; and more. We also offer lab testing and imaging — ultrasounds, CT scans and MRIs — that an urgent care center wouldn’t necessarily be able to do.

Q: What do you treat most often at the emergency center?

A: We see a lot of broken bones; sprains; muscle strains; head injuries ranging from mild bumps to concussions and traumatic brain injuries; allergic reactions to bee stings, foods and more; mental health crises; high fevers; respiratory issues like asthma, pneumonia or croup; lacerations; and abdominal issues such as vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

Q: How does Suburban Hospital make the pediatric emergency center kid-friendly?

A: When parents bring their child into the emergency center, the pediatric emergency staff is alerted, and brings the patient straight to pediatrics rather than having them wait in the adult waiting room. This streamlined process helps make the experience less stressful for both kids and their family members or caregivers.

In addition, we have personal DVD players and a large selection of movies, coloring books, popsicles and other items on hand to help the kids focus on things other than their ailment or injury.

Q: When should parents bring their child to the emergency center?

A: Parents have a sense of when their kids are really sick, or if they’re not behaving like they usually do. Signs that your child may need emergency care include if your child:

  • Is younger than 2 months old and has a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) or higher.
  • Potentially has a broken bone, particularly if there is visible swelling or unevenness and bumps in the injured area, indicating the broken bone is misaligned.
  • Hits his or her head and appears to lose consciousness for a few seconds or appears in an altered state.
  • Has a seizure.
  • Has signs of dehydration, such as very dry lips and mouth, absence of urination for more than 12 hours, no tear production, lethargy and confusion.
  • Has heavy, fast breathing, is gasping for air, or manages to utter only two or three words before taking a breath.
  • Has gaping cuts on the face, especially in younger children who need sedation or behavioral support while the laceration is being repaired.
  • Is extremely fatigued.
  • Has a poor appetite for an extended period of time.
  • Is having a severe allergic reaction.
  • Is experiencing a mental or behavioral health crisis.
  • Is having diarrhea or vomiting with blood, and has signs of dehydration.

Q: When should parents bring their child to an urgent care center instead of the emergency center?

A: If your child acts and looks like he or she usually does, chances are whatever he or she is experiencing is not an emergency. Urgent care centers offer appointments, which the emergency department does not. If you can’t see your pediatrician within a day or two, consider urgent care for these symptoms:

  • Your child has a fever accompanied by cold symptoms, and you suspect it may be the flu.
  • You suspect your child may have an ear infection; symptoms include drainage from the ear, earache and pulling on the ears.
  • Your child has a sore throat with or without white patches on the tonsils, a possible sign of strep infection.
  • You suspect your child may have pink eye, also known as infectious conjunctivitis, with symptoms such as red, inflamed eyes, with or without discharge.
  • Your child has had a few episodes of vomiting or diarrhea (without blood in the stool) but has no belly pain or signs of dehydration.

Q: Does it matter if you arrive by car or by ambulance?

A: Patients who come by ambulance are given priority for triage if we are busy. However, most patients are able to come immediately back to the unit for triage, even if they arrive by car.

Q: What else should the community know about the emergency center?

A: Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, there’s a board-certified pediatrician here, as well as pediatric nurses and pediatric techs who are trained to take care of children. And there are decades of experience among our staff; four of our doctors have been here since we opened in 2003.

We know visiting the emergency center can be a stressful time, and we have a beautiful, child-friendly unit with a staff dedicated to delivering compassionate, high-quality care.