Published on January 26, 2023

Care for All: OHRH Uses Pediatric-ready Status for the Whole Family

Peds ED

By Freddie Bourne Messenger-Inquirer

A visit to the emergency room can be an unsettling experience, especially for the younger patients who are uncertain about what to expect. But for Owensboro Health Regional Hospital — which saw 8,326 pediatric patients in the emergency department last year — it’s looking to change that narrative. Laurie Milliner, APRN, pediatric emergency care coordinator for Owensboro Health, said the focus on pediatric care has been part of a nationwide push for all general emergency departments (EDs) to get them ready to be “pediatric-ready certified.” Milliner added that it’s a requirement for hospitals that are level I, II or III trauma centers. Currently, OHRH is a level III trauma center. “What that means is that they want us to be able to have the equipment that’s specific for pediatrics, because obviously there’s difference in sizes; and then they want us to have the education in place for our staff and for our providers, education for parents as we send them home with discharge instructions,” she said. “We have to have the right medications and be able to know what those are.” Milliner said the hospital became pediatric-ready certified in August 2022 and received an $88,000 grant from the Owensboro Health Foundation.

She said having a certified emergency facility helps decrease the mortality rate and offers a service that isn’t found much in the commonwealth. “When I started here, there were eight hospitals that were pediatric-ready in the state of Kentucky,” she said. “There is nobody that we know of from west of Louisville that has this certification.”

And while Milliner has only been with the health system in the newly-created role for 14 months, she’s already seen how the ED becoming more kid-friendly has been beneficial for the children and families. One of the things Milliner said she’s lucky to have is a full-time child life specialist on board — a certified staff member who helps both the children and families with reducing the stress and anxieties that one can endure in a healthcare setting, while also helping with education, preparation and play components. “A lot of emergency departments add this job description and they’re like, ‘OK, this nurse is interested or has a passion for pediatrics,’ and so then they’ll spend two hours a week on it,” Milliner said. “Two hours a week is really not enough to start the program that we started here.”

The child life specialist helps younger patients with some uncomfortable situations — such as getting a shot — by getting to know the child’s interests and finding ways to help distract them during procedures.

The specialist also helps with demonstrating the items that the patient may see, hear or feel during a procedure, help them prepare for what can be expected and reward them for getting through it with a number of different items they can pick from the dedicated child life cart. Milliner said the position helps with children learning by play and allows the hospital to showcase its bedside manner, care and make a positive impression with all parties involved. “Play therapy is a huge way to reach these kids,” she said, “... and by taking a little extra time and giving them a little more TLC to the family unit, we find that everybody has a much safer and smoother visit. “We have the ability to create good core memories. This could be (the parents) first time ever needing acute care and all that goes with that ….”

So far, Milliner said the response since becoming pediatric-ready certified has been positive. “It’s really touched the parents a lot,” she said. Milliner said the other two hospitals in the health system — Owensboro Health Muhlenberg Community Hospital in Greenville and Owensboro Health Twin Lakes Medical Center in Leitchfield — will be eying certification this year.

“Sharing everything between all three EDs makes it uniform (and) makes it easy for us to elevate the education level of all three facilities,” she said. Regardless of where a family goes, Milliner hopes the children and their families are able to leave with more optimism than when they originally arrived at the ED. “I am hoping that they feel that Owensboro Health is a place where they can get excellent pediatric care,” she said. “I want them to know that we can provide healthcare for the whole lifespan; and not only do we do it, but we do it with our heart and we do it in the best way that it should be done….”

About Owensboro Health

Owensboro Health is a nonprofit health system with a mission to heal the sick and to improve the health of the communities it serves in Kentucky and Indiana. The system includes Owensboro Health Regional Hospital, nationally recognized for design, architecture and engineering; Owensboro Health Muhlenberg Community Hospital; Owensboro Health Twin Lakes Medical Center; the Owensboro Health Medical Group comprised of over 200 providers at more than 20 locations; three outpatient Healthplex facilities, a certified medical fitness facility, the Healthpark; a surgical weight loss center and program, and the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center.

On average each year, we have 16,000 inpatient admissions, deliver 2,000 babies and provide the region’s only Level III NICU. Owensboro Health physicians perform nearly 24,000 surgical procedures, including nearly 200 open-heart surgeries. Our physicians and staff have 70,000 Emergency Department visits, more than a million outpatient visits annually. Visit our home page for more information.