Aug 20, 2020 Keeping Kids Healthy

Thanks to Innovative Protocols, the Pediatric Emergency Department at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Is Providing Safe and Effective Emergency Care

Since the pandemic began, many parents have been understandably afraid to bring their child to an Emergency Department (ED). Fortunately, The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital (BMSCH) at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) provides safe, family-centered care, with a child-life specialist on staff and a sensory room dedicated to caring for autistic patients.

Here, Ernest G. Leva, MD, Director of the Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine and Professor of Pediatrics at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, explains the steps the hospital has taken to keep young patients safe — and why it’s important not to delay care.

Is it safe to bring your child to the ED?

When the pandemic began, patients were examined in tents outside of the Emergency Department at RWJUH. Children with COVID-19 symptoms were separated from those without. Those who had symptoms were evaluated by a nurse, who took their vital signs, and a robot equipped with a microscope and electronic stethoscope. The robot examined children’s mouths and lungs and listened to their hearts, then transmitted the information to health care providers inside the hospital.

“This approach reduced the amount of time patients spent in the ED by half,” says Dr. Leva. In addition, no patient needed to return for additional care.

Now that there are fewer COVID-19 cases, RWJUH has replicated this triage system inside the hospital. Children are evaluated in a room inside the hospital before they are admitted to the ED.

“We have a screening process,” says Dr. Leva. “If a child has COVID-19 symptoms, he or she is taken to an area for patients with the virus. If he or she doesn’t, then he or she can be evaluated in the main pediatric ED.”

What are the risks of waiting too long to bring your child to the ED?

He or she could become very ill or even die. For instance, a child with a skin infection like cellulitis or a lung infection like pneumonia could end up in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). A child with type 1 diabetes could develop a complication called ketoacidosis, in which blood sugar levels become dangerously high.

What symptoms require a visit to the ED?

If your child is having trouble breathing or is experiencing signifi cant pain, swelling or deformity aft er an injury, consider bringing him or her to the ED. “We always suggest that you touch base with your child’s pediatrician first,” says Dr. Leva. What is unique about your approach to pediatric emergency care? RWJUH is the only hospital in the area to perform prehospital triage using a robot. “I wanted to set up a system so that patients wouldn’t need to be admitted to the hospital unnecessarily,” says Dr. Leva. “We used one robot for adults and another one for kids.”

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