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Healthwatch 16: Child-friendly emergency services

It can be scary for an adult to visit an emergency room. Now imagine that visit from the eyes of child.

DANVILLE, Pa. — A newly created child-friendly zone has been implemented at Geisinger Medical Center.

There's a particular day this year Elissa Concini from Milton struggles to talk about. In May, she watched as her 2-year-old daughter Victoria ran out into the street and was hit by a car.

"In that moment, she ran into a moving vehicle," Elissa Concini recalled. "The entire situation just kind of flew by, from the moment it occurred to finding ourselves in the trauma bay."

Thankfully, the little girl didn't appear to be severely injured, though she was bleeding, and Elissa didn't know what might have happened internally. The family ended up at Geisinger Medical Center's pediatric emergency department.

That's where she was met by Dr. Sarah Alander, the director of pediatric emergency services.

"Usually, the first thing I'm thinking is if they're such and such age, how big are they? Because our airway equipment and what we would use for resuscitation vary a lot by how big the kids are," Dr. Alander said.

Dr. Alander told us about a new child-friendly zone for pediatric emergencies, meant to put kids and their parents at ease. Some of the improvements are in the design: the colors are brighter, a sun mural decorates one wall, and toys are available for little hands to grab.

But this separate area boasts of medical necessities as well, such as pediatric-specific technology to handle any emergency, with everything kid-sized.

"We have a place that is bright and colorful and developmentally appropriate. It's more private."

And, she emphasized her specially trained pediatric team, including surgeons, nurses, and pharmacists. It's the only special pediatric zone she knows of that opened during the COVID-19 pandemic. It's staffed every day from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Elissa can say first hand it made a difference to her family.

"Not only did we feel a sense of security with the team caring for her, but back into that area, I thought, 'Wow, this is really meant for her.' Special touches made it that much more calming for us as parents."

Elissa's daughter is 3 now. She's doing just fine, with only a few scars to speak of after that frightening incident.