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Experiencing the ER with Your Kids: 5 Things to Remember

A Child Life Specialist walks you through the Emergency Department experience

It can be difficult to imagine what you will find when you walk into the emergency room with your kiddo. Chances are you’ve debated coming, but it’s Friday night and you’ve hoped all day that your child would start to feel better. The weekend is fast approaching, and you missed the doctor’s office window. It could also be Sunday night, and you thought you could hold out until Monday morning. Now you realize that it would be better to figure this out before the school week and work week grind begins. You may be debating whether that cut on your kid’s hand really needs stitches, and surely the arm that your little one is complaining about is not broken; but this is day 2 of the complaining, and you’re starting to wonder…

You walk through the door of the ER to see no one else signing in. You breathe a sigh of relief. This doesn’t look so bad. You get checked in, and it’s not long before they call you back to a room - triage. Your child gets their vitals taken, the nurse asks you a slew of questions and the doctor sees you. Then you are back in another waiting room...WAITING. You think it’s not going to be long, but 45 minutes turns into a couple of hours and you are still waiting.

The ER is just that - an emergency room. Most people try to avoid it completely, while for others, it’s their go-to for health care. No matter where you land in that mix, there is more going on behind the scenes than what you see in the waiting room. 

This is your first tip from an ED Child Life Specialist and mom. Every time I walk through the waiting room on my shift, I think like a mom for those few seconds. I don’t know about you, but as a mom I avoid waiting with my children for everything. This is why drive-thrus were invented! If I can’t avoid it, I come armed with everything possible to make it more bearable. Usually there is a bribe attached to this option.

As a mom with behind-the-scenes experience, there are a few things I think you should know before you sit and wait or, unfortunately, experience a really scary emergency.

What To Remember at the ED



The emergency room is a necessary place, and we know how much you don’t want to be there. Trust me, I’ve debated going at midnight with the screaming baby whose ear infection came on within a matter of hours on a Friday night. Confession: I let my oldest go two days with a broken arm and had no idea. The second time, I had her x-rayed the day of. Being a caregiver comes with so many decisions, and I know that deciding whether or not to go the emergency room is one of the hardest ones. Remember that we are here to help you and your child through these hard moments and illnesses that come with childhood. Our motto is: It’s all about the kids! And we mean it!

About the Author

Ashley Pagenkopf is a Child Life Specialist in the Emergency Department at Cook Children's Medical Center. The Child Life program at Cook Children's offers a variety of services, all designed to make your experience at Cook Children's the best it can be. Our services include educating, preparing and supporting your child through tests and procedures, as well as coping with any life challenges you and your child may face. 

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Comments 1 - 2 (2)
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Webb Hersperger
Extremely well written and so necessary for orientation. Thanks!
Charles Rodenberger
Thanks for a well-written helpful article. You are a great child care expert, mother and granddaughter!