A Trip to the ER: Dr. Hale Shares What to Know Before You Go

Having spent almost a decade working inside the Chippenham Pediatric ER, Dr. Luanne Hale is no stranger to emergency situations. In our latest interview, Dr. Hale shares what she learned from her experience, as well as key things parents should consider before going to the emergency room with children. 

Q: How does your experience in the emergency room differ from primary care?

A: There is very little predictability when it comes to working in the ER. Unlike the PAR office, where there is a set schedule of dedicated time, you are never sure what to expect on a daily basis in the ER. I had no idea when the floodgates were going to open or when it would be quiet for hours! Overall, it was a great experience and a constant learning curve, but I’ve enjoyed the transition over to primary care because it allows for more continuity and relationships. 

Q: Are there certain skills you learned in the ER?

A: In that environment, you learn how to jump from one thing to another in a fast-paced setting! Multitasking and quick decision-making is critical given time-sensitive emergencies and the nature of the job.

Q: As a parent, how do I know when I need to take my child to the ER?

A: There are lots of different things that can be scary for parents. Understandably, it’s hard to know what requires emergency care versus an outpatient visit with our team at PAR. Here are a few situations that require an ER visit:

— Uncontrolled bleeding. If it won’t stop, seek care.

— An injury where you see a deformity or bone sticking out of the skin. Certain injuries might require a bone reset or possibly an operation.

— Gaping lacerations, especially involving the face. The longer you wait, the more risk of infection so you’ll need to seek immediate care.

— High fevers for those that are immunocompromised or 28 days and under.

— Seizures, dehydration, altered mental status, severe respiratory distress and uncontrollable vomiting are also conditions that require immediate medical attention.

Q: What should parents expect when they are at the ER?

The biggest thing to note is that ERs are not first come, first served, so be prepared to wait. And know that things may take longer than expected. There are lots of patients with varying health concerns and typically there is a steady influx of patients. Everyone wants their child taken care of but the order they are seen will depend on the nature of their issue and how it compares to others.

Q: Any tips for what to bring to the ER, assuming there is time to prepare? 

Not all ERs have formula and diapers so pack accordingly if you are with an infant. For older children needing an IV or stitches, I’d recommend anything that can provide distraction and comfort!

Q: Any other advice for parents?

We often saw patients that came in for possible poison ingestion and parents don’t know what to do. Remember you can call poison control first and they will tell you if you need to go to ER. 

Poison control: (804) 828-9123 or (800) 222-1222

Thank you Dr. Hale for your time and for sharing your expertise!