Featured, Healthcare, Latest News

WVUM Children’s Hospital Emergency Department provides special care for young patients

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia children and adolescents can get kid-tailored emergency care at WVU Medicine Children’s Emergency Department.

“It’s a child-friendly environment,” said Curtis Ash, director of clinical operations and nursing at WVUMC. “That’s probably the biggest change for Children’s in general” from the once-combined emergency department and hospital.

Looking at the hospital from the front, the ED sits off to the right. Ambulatory patients can enter the ED through the main front doors. An ambulance entrance is around the side of the building and atop the hospital is a helipad to fly patients in.

The ED forms a loop with the reception desk in front and the main staff work station in the back. It has 11 rooms: two for high-level acuity cases; two for mental health crises; a decontamination room; and six regular rooms.

Ash was the manager of the Ruby ED before Children’s opened last September. Knowing how the combined adult-youth ED worked, they were able to take the kid-specific good practices from that and bring them over.

The Children’s ED serves kids up to age 18, he said, and all the providers, nurses and staff specialize in patients up to that age. The atmosphere is kid-centric, too, from the art on the walls to the size of the rooms and the activity centers. Frog pictures decorate the reception/waiting area and kid-sized tables and chairs give them a place to pass the time while they wait.

The ED even has its own dedicated X-ray suite to speed up care, Ash said.

“Emergency departments around the country see the worst of the worst,” he said, including kids experiencing mental health crises. It benefits them to separate them from the adult patients.

Patients are triaged when they arrive, just as in the adult ED, and assigned an acuity level from 1-5, with 1 the worst. “Our goal is to have our lower acuity in and out the door within 60 minutes,” he said.

Severe trauma cases brought in by ambulance are still handled at the trauma center in the Ruby ED, he noted.

They average about 40 patients per day, with the highest days so far in the 50s. The demand “is significantly higher than we had planned for when we built the place,” he said.

They keep one attending pediatric specialist on hand at all times, along with the residents, four nurses and two-to-three ED technicians.

The teams are trained to deal with the specific needs of their patients. “A kid is not just a small adult. You have to make health care interactive for them.”

For instance, they may use a stuffed animal to show them and practice how they will be treated — with an injection or an IV, perhaps. And providers are taught to tell the truth: It’s going to hurt.

Along with the staff already mentioned, certified child life specialists are on staff to help the kids navigate their care. ChildLife.org explains that certified child life specialists are educated and clinically trained in the developmental impact of illness and injury. Their role helps improve patient and family care, satisfaction and overall experience.

Children’s specialists might carry bags of books and toys to help the kids get through their experience there, Ash said.

TWEET David Beard @dbeardtdp

EMAIL dbeard@dominionpost.com