Ailments and injuries are just part of childhood — sometimes a big part. So when your child is in need of medical attention, as he or she inevitably will be, should you seek out a pediatric hospital or is the closest or most convenient medical center adequate?
A mother fortunate enough to have choices for her child’s healthcare facility can be puzzled by the options. When trying to decide between a hospital and a pediatric hospital, it’s important to note that the latter offers far more than whimsical decor. "At Seattle Children’s, for instance, our anesthesiologists are specially trained to provide the maximum comfort for kids, without overmedicating," says Ruth McDonald, M.D., pediatrician-in-chief at Seattle Children's Hospital. "We also limit unnecessary lab tests and imaging by using the least invasive and lowest-radiation approaches to common diagnoses." Furthermore, healthcare providers in pediatric hospitals are specially trained and experienced in developing treatment plans just for little ones.
Whether your child is suffering from a broken leg or leukemia, expedient healing is at the top of a parent’s priority list. In many cases, a pediatric hospital may be able to provide a medical edge when it comes to healing.
These facilities are also equipped to perform procedures on little bodies, giving doctors the best opportunity to execute a treatment plan and reducing unnecessary exposure to potentially harmful materials such as radiation. "Studies show that for many childhood conditions and diseases, pediatric treatments have far better outcomes than adult protocols," says Dr. McDonald. "For instance, cancer in children accounts for just 1 percent of all cancers diagnosed in the United States. As a result, many primary care doctors have little experience treating childhood cancer and may not be aware of the most recent pediatric research and treatments available."
Choosing a medical facility is a very personal choice that deserves research and thought. When debating between a hospital and a pediatric hospital, find out what specialized services are offered for young patients and their families. "We provide support that includes counseling, crisis intervention, referrals to community resources, help with housing and transportation needs — even showers and lockers for parents of inpatients," says Dr. McDonald. "Many children’s hospitals offer an on-site school so kids and teens don’t fall behind their classmates while they’re being treated."
When a child is sick or injured, the experience can take an emotional and physical toll on all involved. Pediatric hospitals are often designed to treat the whole child (emotionally, physically, physiologically and socially) and provide care for the family as well. "[W]e offer therapeutic play, including art, music and animal therapy, to help relieve anxiety and provide creative outlets for kids during long hospital stays," says Dr. McDonald. "Our Healing Arts program, which includes photography, film, writing and other creative arts, has been a powerful tool for patients and families as they go through challenging circumstances."
It makes sense to map out your local medical facilities before you need them. Know where the closest drug store clinic, emergency room, urgent care facility, hospital and pediatric hospital are and do some preliminary research to make the decision a bit easier when it counts.
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