What's the difference between a pediatric and adult emergency room (ER)?

The difference between a pediatric and adult emergency room (ER) is that although all emergency departments should have pediatric specific equipment and be staffed in pediatric care, studies have shown that many adult ERs have most, but not all of the recommended pediatric equipment. Emergency physicians and nurses are trained to see pediatric patients and can certainly stabilize critically ill children for transfer. However, ERs seeing a lower volume of pediatric patients may not be equipped to fully manage pediatric ER patients.

Pediatric ERs will have pediatric trained physicians, nurses and other staff, such as child life specialists and respiratory therapists familiar with the pediatric airway. These are healthcare providers that see and treat only pediatric patients. They are aware of pediatric specific illnesses and take into consideration the developmental age of the child when examining and explaining treatment to the child and parents.

A comprehensive pediatric emergency room (ER) has specialized, board-certified doctors in pediatrics. These pediatric specialists are on call to be available to stabilize children when needed. Further, a pediatric ER will also have nurses with special certifications for pediatrics. A comprehensive pediatric ER has a designated area to see children only and equipment meant solely for children, such as a Broselow cart. Adult ERs see children also but do not have all the specialized staff and equipment. Adult ERs can stabilize children but if they need to be further evaluated, they will need to be transferred to a pediatric ER.

The differences between a pediatric and adult emergency room (ER) are many. For instance, the training of the physicians and nurses, equipment sizes and medication doses, which are weight based in pediatrics. Plus, pediatric ERs focus on a child-friendly environment and easing anxiety for the child as well as the parent.

Although the emergency department at the emergency room (ER) takes care of patients of all ages, the pediatric emergency department provides specialized doctors and nurses who are specifically trained in treating children under the age of 18.

Pediatric and adult emergency rooms (ER) are basically the same. However, a pediatric ER is set up to see kids, so it is more comfortable for them. In addition, the doctors and nurses are trained in pediatrics—the branch of medicine specializing in kids. Some of the conditions you see in adults are rare in kids. For example, chest pain is very common for adult ER visits but not common at all for kids. So, adult emergency rooms are more equipped to handle those types of health problems.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.