Easing Anxiety for Families when Visiting the Emergency Department

By: Andrea Kunicky

When parents bring their sick child to the emergency department, the last thing they want to do is wait. Rushing to the hospital only to sit around and wait for hours can increase anxiety and cause extreme worry.

UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh is continually looking at ways to improve that care and decrease wait times in the ED.

A study led by physician-scientists at University of Pittsburgh and University of California-Los Angeles looked at hospital emergency departments and their preparedness for critically ill kids. Their research showed critically ill children who are brought to a general hospital ED, one that is not prepared to care for pediatric emergencies, have more than three times the odds of dying compared to those brought to hospitals well-equipped to care for them.

The research was published today in the journal Pediatrics.

“Our findings indicate that it matters which hospital a critically ill or injured child is brought to in an emergency,” said co-author Dr. Jennifer Marin, an emergency physician at UPMC Children’s and associate professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine in Pitt’s School of Medicine. “A hospital’s pediatric readiness should be a factor in determining to which hospital a critically ill child should be transported.”

UPMC Children’s is a specialty hospital that is prepared for all kids coming to the ED, whether it be a young child with a broken arm or a critically ill teenager that has been transported by air.

“Providing all our families with the highest quality pediatric care and the ultimate patient care experience is our main priority,” said Diane Hupp, chief nursing officer and vice president, patient care services, UPMC Children’s. “We see an average of 220 patients a day in our ED, and during the winter months, our volume is closer to 300 each day. While we have always been ready and prepared for pediatric emergencies, our volume is high, and we have been working hard to improve our processes including more timely subspecialist consults to reduce the wait time for our families and keep families more informed during their visit.”

The hospital also provides wait times for families through an easy-to-use app.

Because wait times vary quite a bit during the day and night, UPMC Children’s implemented a wait time indicator, so families can review those times online or on the ChildrensPgh app for the Children’s Emergency Department and all UPMC Children’s Express Care centers. Express Care locations offers care for minor injuries and illnesses for kids and teens after hours and on the weekends.

Results in the past few months have been positive, showing a 27% reduction in wait times regarding admission of patients, and a 20% reduction in discharge times.

“The recent research shows the importance of a pediatric ED and reinforces how lucky our community is to have UPMC Children’s in its backyard if the unimaginable happens to your child,” said Hupp. “Being fast is indeed important in an ED but being right and providing the best possible care is the most important. We are proud of the improvements we have made for our families and look forward to introducing new initiatives in the upcoming months.”