Hopefully, you never have to use this advice.
And when you get there, especially if it is your first time, you’ll naturally be overwhelmed by what to expect and what to do once you’re there.
But, there’s good news. By keeping in mind these three simple tips, you’ll be much more prepared and able to focus on being present for your child.
- Know which hospital (or urgent care) to go to. You have a choice!
- Know when to call 911.
- Know your chief complaint.
#1: Know which hospital to go to – and know that it’s not always about proximity.
There are many options when deciding where to take your child in an emergency.
When the situation is extremely urgent, going to the closest hospital typically takes precedence; but knowing the capabilities of your local hospitals and urgent cares can save your family time, energy and resources.
It’s best to choose a facility that can meet all your needs in one visit, versus going somewhere that sends your child elsewhere to be seen by a specialist. You’re even better served if the facility can have the specialist see you same-day and organize a follow-up for you in a location convenient to you.
The trick to knowing where to go (and this applies to adults too) is to know what sub-specialties each hospital offers if you come through the emergency department.
At Phoenix Children’s emergency department, we have sub specialists in nearly every medical field ready to treat an extremely wide range of cases. These include craniofacial surgeons, plastic surgeons, physicians specializing in extremities (hands, arms, legs) and many more.
These specialists can see the child the same day, and the child’s follow-up (if needed) can be arranged at the time of the visit – scheduled at Phoenix Children’s main hospital or one of our specialty and urgent care facilities in the East Valley, Northwest Valley, Southwest Valley and Scottsdale.
Separately, if you think an urgent care center can service most of your needs, get familiar with these centers’ offerings and see if they provide in-house sub-specialist appointments so you can be seen and treated, and scheduled to see a specialist, like a GI or ENT doctor, for follow-up the next day.
#2 Making the call: Ambulance or no ambulance?
This can be tough to judge, but it’s important to know the true benefits of calling 911.
If your child endured a major trauma or is in a dire circumstance (broken bones, head trauma, loss of breathing), the right answer is always to call an ambulance. Even if the situation is not as scary, there are still many considerations to weigh before driving to the ER.
An ambulance will get you in the ER ahead of the line, and allow first responders to start tending to your child’s care while on the road to the hospital – something that is not possible while your child is in your car.
While there is a sometimes a hefty medical bill associated with an ambulance ride, parents in scary situations will never regret the decision.
Lastly, if you should call an ambulance, you as the parent have some say as to where they take your child – the EMTs may make suggestions, but you have the ability to direct.
#3 Knowing your chief complaint cuts the time it takes for medical staff to arrive at the number one issue, and ultimately, cuts down the time it will take for your child to be seen by a doctor.
Your “chief complaint” is what the triage nurse at the ER will write on your child’s file as the number one reason you are there.
For example, if your child has a raging sore throat, headache and swollen glands, your chief complaint is a sore throat. Knowing and properly articulating this information in a stressful moment will enable the medical team to act decisively and prepare the right expert, tests and questions before entering the exam room.
A tricky example is abdominal pain. If abdominal pain is associated with fever and vomiting, you will want to take your child to the ER, and say “abdominal pain” is your chief complaint. It can be a red flag when among other scary symptoms and there may be a surgical need – which is something an urgent care will likely rule out.
Now, remembering all of this in a time if crisis and confusion is easier said than done!
What lessons have you’ve learned receiving emergency care for your child?
Surgical Director, Arizona Mother Baby Care