Christy Hay

Last year, the Emergency Department (ED) at BC Children’s Hospital received close to 45,000 visits from children and families. “Respiratory-related conditions are the number one reason why children come to the Emergency Department, followed by fever and minor injuries from falls, accidents or sports related incidences,” says Christy Hay, program manager of the hospital’s ED.

“Our care providers are specially trained in pediatric emergency care. That’s comforting for families and that’s why they choose to travel here.”

The 30-year-old ED has had to operate beyond capacity for many years, creating a host of challenges. “Unlike an adult facility, when a child comes into Emergency, they’re accompanied by multiple family members and that impacts our limited space,” says Christy. “It’s almost like our patients are in a fish bowl. Some of our hallways are like thoroughfares and become congested, creating unnecessary noise and stress for families.”

Feedback from Christy, as well as from patient families, is being considered by the planning team for the new BC Children’s Hospital, whose top priority is to address the needs of children and families.

“What we’re envisioning for the new Emergency Department is to eliminate the concept of the traditional waiting room,” says Christy. “Instead, what you’ll see is that as soon as a family walks into the department, they would be triaged by a nurse or physician in one of four assessment rooms. It’s within the privacy of these rooms that they would explain the reason for their visit and provide caregivers with their personal information.”

Children and families can also look forward to larger, more comfortable and private patient rooms in the new facility. “We’ll also have rooms where patients can stay up to 24 hours while we decide whether or not they need to be admitted to the hospital,” says Christy.

Rather than waiting for the new hospital to open in 2018 before implementing changes, Christy says the ED is already testing new models of care within the existing floor plan. “We’ve hired two nurse practitioners and for our less urgent cases, families won’t necessarily have to wait to see a doctor,” she says. “The nurse practitioners will be able to assess, diagnose and prescribe medications within their scope of practice. For example, if a child comes in with an earache, the nurse practitioner will be able to assess the child, prescribe antibiotics and the family can then go home.”