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What to Expect During Your Child's Emergency Department Visit

A trip to the Emergency Department (ED) can be frightening for any child — and perhaps even more so for the child's parent. Ideally, children would never have to visit the ED, but the reality is that most children will make at least one trip to an emergency department before the age of 18.

Here is some useful information to help you during your experience at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's Emergency Department.

Learn more about the ED process

As anyone who has ever been to an Emergency department knows, waiting to be seen by a doctor can be frustrating. But knowing the process ahead of time, and understanding that it ensures that the sickest patients get seen first, makes it easier to be patient.

Greeter Desk:

When you arrive, an ED nurse will quickly assess your child and his or her chief complaint. A patient care associate will take some information from you and enter your child's name into an electronic tracking system. If your child requires immediate care or if there is a treatment room available, you and your child will be escorted there. If this is not the case, the patient care associate will give you a coaster.


Your coaster will alert you that the triage nurse is ready to further assess your child. The number of blinking lights on the coaster indicates your assigned triage room (1 through 4). The triage nurse will ask you some questions, perform a quick physical assessment and take your child's vital signs (pulse, respiratory rate, temperature and, in older children, blood pressure). A triage category is then given to your child. The triage system allows our doctors and nurses to see the sickest patients first.

ED Treatment Room:

You and your child will be interviewed, and your child will be examined and cared for by a team of doctors and nurses. The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has a large teaching program, so residents and fellows will be caring for your child along with the attending physician. Evaluation of your child may include x-rays, blood tests and/or consultation with specialists. The ED health care team will keep you informed and as comfortable as possible while you wait for your evaluation to be completed.

How you can help us

When it comes to your child, you are the expert. We rely on parents and caregivers to help us provide the best care for our patients. To be the best advocate for your child:

How you can help your child

It is normal for your child to feel scared, nervous, frustrated, tired and/or lonely. There are several things you can do to help your child cope with his or her feelings.

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