Emergency Medicine and Trauma Services
How We Care for Your Child in the Emergency Department
- How We Care for Your Child
- How We Care for Your Child
Welcome to the Emergency Department (ED) at Children’s National Hospital. Here’s what you can expect and the healthcare providers who will help you during your visit:
What to Expect: The Care Process in Our Emergency Department
Registration and Triage (Initial Evaluation)
When you and your child arrive at the ED, you will go through a quick registration process with one of our patient access representatives. This will add your child’s name in our system. Next, the nurse (triage nurse) will see your child to conduct the initial evaluation. This evaluation helps us to assess your child and their medical needs. Depending on their medical needs, your child may be assigned to the main ED or the Fast Track area of the ED. Please be aware that patients who come after your child may be seen before yours if they are sicker and need immediate attention.
If you speak a language other than English, we have interpreters and access to audio and video interpretation for over 50 languages, including ASL. Let us know your preferred language so we can accommodate you.
Next, a staff member will take your child’s vital signs (like temperature and blood pressure) and get more information about your child’s symptoms and history. The assessment may happen before or after you are brought back to the treatment area. A nurse may give medicine for pain or fever to help your child to feel better. They may also order a radiology test (like an X-ray) so that the results are ready when a doctor, physician assistant (PA), or nurse practitioner (NP) is ready to see you.
Your child’s comfort is a priority, so please share any information that would help us provide the best possible care for you and your child. We want to partner with you to understand your child’s medical history, including medical conditions, medications, and allergies.
Sometimes the ED can be busy, and space in our treatment area may not be available. During these times, you will be asked to wait in the waiting room. As soon as space is available, your child’s name will be called, and a staff member will take you back to the treatment area. If your child’s condition seems to be getting worse, tell a staff member right away.
Wait Time Monitor
The monitors above the registration desk show how long you have been waiting and the order shows when you may be called. There are two monitors. The top monitor shows patients who will be seen in the Emergency Department area of the ED. The bottom monitor shows patients who will be seen in the Fast Track area of the ED. Your child’s number on the monitor is the last 5 digits of the ACC# on their ID band. Your child may be called next when their number is at the top of the list.
When there are many patients waiting, the monitor may only show part of the list at one time. There is a scroll bar the right side of the screen to show which section of the list is being displayed. The monitor will rotate through the different sections of the list.
When you are in the treatment area, your child will be examined and evaluated by a team of health care providers (doctors, PAs, nurses). The number of staff you meet can be overwhelming, but everyone is working together to help you and your child. The care team will discuss the treatment plan that is needed with you and your child. The treatment plan may include medications, tests (like bloodwork, X-ray, CT scan), or procedures (like stitches or surgery). Also, your child may need to stay in the ED for observation, so the care team can carefully monitor them to make sure they can go home safely.
Leaving the ED
If your child is well enough to be discharged, your doctor will print discharge instructions and may write a prescription for medicines. You may be asked to make an appointment with your child’s pediatrician or with a specialist.
If your child needs to be admitted to the hospital, we will make you and your child as comfortable as possible while you wait for your room to be ready. Note: siblings are not allowed to be with the patient when they go to their room. Our visitor policy may change with new developments related to the pandemic.
After Your Visit to the ED
Read and review your discharge paperwork for follow-up instructions and how to care for your child at home. You will get an email invitation to sign up for the Patient Portal. The Patient Portal gives you 24/7 access to your child’s medical information like visit summaries and lab results. Learn more here.
Who You'll Meet in Our Emergency Department
Patient Access Representative
A patient access representative (sometimes called “registration”) will register your child into the ED by entering your child’s name and other information into the computer. They will get your insurance information if you have it and ask you to sign a consent form. They may ask you for a co-pay if your insurance requires it.
You will meet several different nurses during your ED visit, and all are specially trained to care for children. The triage nurse in the waiting room will ask you about your child’s symptoms, do an initial evaluation, and determine the treatment area where your child will be seen. Your bedside nurse will talk to you and examine your child. They will talk to the provider and discuss what needs to be done. They may give medicines, start an IV or draw blood, or measure your child’s vital signs. They will also notify the doctor if your child is getting better or worse. They will help teach you what you need to know to care for your child while they are sick or injured.
Resident or Medical Student
This person is a student or a doctor-in-training, and they may see you first. They will talk to you and your child, examine them, and help figure out what tests or treatments are needed. The resident or medical student will then confirm with the doctor what needs to be done.
Doctor, Physician Assistant (PA) or Nurse Practitioner (NP)
You may be seen by a doctor, a PA or an NP. They will talk to you and your child and examine them. They will try to figure out what is wrong, and order any tests or treatments needed. There are senior doctors, called attending physicians, who supervise care in the ED.
ED Tech or Trauma Tech
Your patient care or trauma tech may put in stitches, start an IV, draw blood, place a splint, teach you to use crutches, measure vital signs, help with a procedure, or take you to X-ray or another part of the hospital.
Child Life Specialist
A child life specialist may help your child during procedures, such as getting a cut repaired. They use calming techniques and distraction to make the procedures as easy as possible for your child. They are available on most days, but not every day.
Consultant or Specialist
The ED team may speak with a consultant (specialist) about your child’s care. The consultant is usually another doctor at Children’s National who is an expert in treating a specific type of illness or injury and who may see your child for follow up care. Occasionally the consultant will need to see your child or do a procedure in the ED. They come as fast as possible, but they may be delayed because they are coming in from home or because they need to take care of patients in another part of the hospital.
Pharmacist or Pharmacy Tech
A pharmacist or pharmacy tech may review your child’s home medications with you to make sure that your child receives all the medicines they need while in the ED.
A social worker can help with non-medical needs that you or your child may have, such as mental distress or issues with transportation, finances, food, etc.
A respiratory therapist helps us to support your child’s breathing if they are having trouble. They will also teach you how you can support your child’s breathing at home.
A unit clerk helps the ED run smoothly by answering phones, maintaining records, and coordinating with other parts of the hospital. You may see them at the desks in the treatment areas of the ED and are welcome to ask them any questions you may have.
Interpreters provide language interpretation and translation services for patients and families 24/7. This includes on-site Spanish interpreters and ASL interpreters.
Environmental Services (EVS)
The EVS team cleans and sanitizes rooms and furniture in the ED treatment areas and waiting rooms. If you see a spill, need your trash emptied, or have another concern, please ask a staff member to contact EVS.
A research coordinator may talk to you and your child about joining a research study. They will tell you about the study and answer any questions you have about it. If you choose not to join the study, your child will still get all the tests and treatments they need.
Case managers are available during some weekday hours in the ED. They can help you with things like understanding your health insurance coverage and arranging home equipment and supplies. If a case manager is not available while you are in the ED, you can ask your care team to have one contact you after your visit.