I know first-hand how stressful it can be taking your child to hospital, (I’ve already had two trips to hospital this year with both the twins due to bronchiolitis). When you’re extremely anxious about your child, it can be unbearable waiting in line to see a doctor.
I spoke this week to Paediatric Registrar, Lauren Hill who answers some of your questions. Read to the end for some great advice from Lauren about good questions YOU can ask the medical professionals.
Lauren what happens when you first arrive in hospital with your poorly child?
When you first arrive, we have to identify who your child is and who is responsible for them. They are then ‘triaged’ which means you are allocated a level of need. Ah triage – I didn’t know what that was when I first went to hospital with Emily. What exactly does triage mean? In triage, we identify very sick children who need immediate medical review and intervention. This is why it can appear that other families are ‘jumping the queue’. Your child’s level of need is based on a score given to heart rate, breathing, temperature and level of alertness – otherwise known as ‘observations’. Medical professionals will do observations throughout your stay to indicate whether or not we need to be worried and escalate treatment. Equally, they may reassure us that although your child is unwell; he/she may simply need TLC from a clued up parent at home. And what happens after triage? You then begin your first story-telling mission to your allocated nurse. Our nurses will oversee your care; from making sure you are reviewed by the medical team at the right time, to getting hold of a breast pump or nappies. They provide invaluable emotional support and are a good listening ear during what can be an emotional journey. You may be seen by a more Junior Doctor or highly skilled advanced Nurse Practitioner before being reviewed by the Registrar or Consultant. This is when we gather detailed information to help us decide on the right investigations and treatment. Rest assured the senior team always know what is happening in the A&E department, admission unit and in the ward. Why do we often have to wait so long? When you first come into hospital with your child, we are trying to answer the following questions:
- What is wrong with your child?
- Do we need to do anything to give us more answers – get a wee sample, do a blood test, order an x-ray for example?
- Is there any immediate treatment we can give your child to make them better?
- Do we need to observe your child for a longer period to see how their condition evolves?
- Does your child require admission to hospital? Is there anything different we can do in hospital that won’t be available to you at home?
There are so many job titles in hospitals. What do they all mean? It can be confusing as there are so many doctors at different stages of training.
- Foundation Doctor/House Officer (FY1s): The most recently qualified doctors
- Senior House Officers (SHOs): There are a number of doctors under this banner. They are all junior doctors who are pre- or early in their specialty training.
- Senior Doctors or ‘Registrars’, who are training to become ‘Consultants’. The senior Doctors oversee the patient flow of the unit. We use our experience to decide whether a child is safe to go home and look after the sicker patients.
Is there any advice you would give to parents bringing their child into hospital? I would encourage you and your family to ASK QUESTIONS. Don’t be scared to as us what we mean if we use ridiculous words or if you think something hasn’t been clearly explained. It is part of our job to communicate well and sometimes we need reminding to do that in a better way. Good questions to ask are:
- What do you think is going on?
- Are you worried about them?
- What is preventing us from going home?
- When do I need to bring them back to hospital?
Lastly, if there is a clear moment amidst the chaos of turning up to hospital, bring along your child’s RED BOOK! Have you ever had to take one of your children to hospital? Yes and despite knowing the corridors like the back of my hand, I felt like a fish out of water myself when my 14 month old baby was admitted to hospital! Hospitals smell funny and can be a mass of noise and chaos; but I want to reassure you that amidst all that there is some kind of order you can expect when you first arrive. I also want you to remember it is our first priority to look after your child. Thanks so much Lauren. I know that so many parents will find this useful and reassuring.