5 Things ER Nurses Wish Every Parent Knew

Consider these tips next time you're thinking of bringing your child to the ER Nurses General Nursing Article


5 Things ER Nurses Wish Every Parent Knew

Pediatric patients are the largest population served in emergency rooms across the U.S.. In 2015, there were 30 million pediatric ER visits. Ideally, your child will never need emergency care, but if they do, here are 5 helpful tips to make your ER visit as smooth as possible.

1. Consider ALL other options FIRST.

Did you know that most pediatricians and family practice clinics offer phone consultations with an on-call doctor or provider 24/7? If you're not sure if your child needs to go the ER at 2am on a Sunday morning, try giving your pediatrician's office a call. You'll likely be given instructions through a recording or an answering service that connects you with someone who can answer your pressing questions. Obviously, do not use this for life-threatening situations. This is a good resource for when you're just not sure if your child is truly having an emergency. For minor cuts, burns, sprains, and strains, a walk-in clinic (also called urgent care, prompt-care, etc.) is usually more than capable of treating a child. Consider all of these options before coming to the Emergency Room.

2. Most fevers are not harmful.

One of the leading reasons for pediatric ER visits is fever. Fever is a natural body process to fight-off infection from a viral (most common in kids) or a bacterial source. Fever becomes concerning only when it is coupled with other concerning symptoms, such as inability to take fluids or extreme sleepiness. The "highness" of the fever is not an indicator of the degree of illness. Rest, fluids, and appropriate medications as recommended by your pediatrician are usually all that is needed for a child with a fever (see #1 if you have questions about safe medications and dosing). Exposing them to the stress and germs of the ER may be more harmful than helpful in a child with a febrile illness. Fever is not normal under any circumstance in infants under 3 months of age and should be addressed immediately. Save this link for a quick reference about fever in children for the next time you're worried about your little pumpkins temperature: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/fever.html

3. Stay with your child while they are in the ER.

Please plan to stay with your child for the duration of their ER stay. Staff may ask you to leave the room for some procedures and tests (such as x-ray) but otherwise, it is helpful to have a calm, loving, and present adult at the bedside. Even when it is hard to be there, it is even harder on your child. Please don't walk away when they get poked or catheterized, they need you in those scary and painful moments and so does the staff. If you can't be calm and reassuring to your child, we encourage you to find a friend or family member who can be.

4. Follow your discharge instructions.

Your nurse and provider will give you a specific plan to follow once you get home. Please follow it exactly as instructed. It is especially important to follow-up with your child's pediatrician as indicated, even if they seem better. Closing this loop in your child's care leads to the best outcome for them and can prevent another trip to the emergency room.

5. Trust your gut.

We acknowledge and respect that you know your child best. If your gut tells you that you need to be in the ER, we will gladly serve you and your child to the best of our abilities.

We sincerely hope that your child will never need the care of the Emergency Room. However, should you find yourself there, you can rest assured that a team of dedicated, skilled, and compassionate nurses will be by your side.


Overview of Pediatric Emergency Visits.

Fever Phobia as a Reason for Pediatric Emergency Department Visits...

Kid's Health for Parents

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Specializes in ICU/community health/school nursing.

LOVE love LOVE this. So useful for the new parent.

I would add that ERs are amazing if it's a true emergency but at this time of year, if it's not a true emergency, you'll likely sit for hours with people who may have the flu.

Also some of this is so basic that I hate that you have to say it - but as I always say "If I'm telling you something basic it's because someone didn't know it that one time at band camp."

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Good article. I live in Canada where we don’t really have Urgent Care. My area is trying to get this started and have opened some clinics near hospitals where they are open later.. I think around 10 pm.

I am a nursing student (RN/BSN program) and my son is sick right now. He is 3 years old and had a fever of 40.3 C (104.5 f) and had tachypnea and tachycardia and was very lethargic but his lungs sounded clear (he has asthma and hx of pneumonia twice in the last 12 months).

I left him home with my husband who booked him an appointment with our GP (she was able to squeeze him in same day). I was talking to my clinical instructor and she thought I should have been bringing him in to the special pediatric hospital in our area and should have stayed home from clinical. This week we have a final assignment due based on our patient from this week so I did not want to miss clinical practice. I felt a little judged but also that I was making the right decision for my child and situation.

Turns out he has an ear infection, the doctor put him on Ampicillin and he felt way better within 24 hours. If I had listened to my clinical instructor and not my own instincts he would have been exposed to unnecessary viruses and bacteria at the Peds ER which he would have been particularly susceptible to give his history and compromised immune system.

The point being, listen to that parenting instinct because we know our children the best.

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