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A place of their own

A space designed just for kids helps emergency department physicians such as Anupam Kharbanda, M.D., make children feel more comfortable.  (Photo: David Sherman)

Amplatz Children’s Hospital’s new children-only emergency department delivers exceptional care with a unique mission

When University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital opened the doors of its emergency department for the first time on April 30, the breakthrough pediatric medicine offered there became easier to find.

The brand-new hospital, located on the University’s Riverside campus, now has a welcoming and easy-to-find emergency department dedicated solely to children. Amplatz Children’s Hospital’s former setup as a “hospital within a hospital” on the University’s East Bank campus meant that all patients needing emergent care—whether children or adults—entered through one set of emergency department doors at University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview.

The culture of the new emergency department reflects the entire hospital’s attention to family-centered care and to delivering the very best experience for children. “There’s nothing in here that isn’t state-of-theart,” says Anupam Kharbanda, M.D., research director for the Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine.

Treatment spaces are large enough that parents can stay by their child’s side. Children and adolescents with behavioral or mental health needs have a room specially designed to help them feel safe. And two fully equipped trauma bays allow emergency staff to care for the most severely ill or injured children.

“Being able to influence emergency pediatric care for the better—perhaps around the world—through our work at Amplatz is what it means to be part of the University of Minnesota,” says assistant professor Tom Hellmich, M.D., who joined the Department of Pediatrics’ emergency medicine team after 18 years practicing locally elsewhere. “That opportunity inspires me to be a better physician and educator.”

Setting the standard

Leading-edge emergency facilities demand leading-edge emergency care. The gold standard today is “evidence-driven.” In the emergency department, this means following carefully researched protocols that provide consistent, proven treatments in a fast-paced environment. Many of those protocols are designed at academic hospitals like Amplatz.

“We want to ensure that all children in the ED get the same excellent care for their particular injury or illness,” says Ron Furnival, M.D., codirector of the Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine. “Evidence-driven care allows us to do that. For example, if a child comes in with diabetic ketoacidosis, we’ve designed a protocol that nurses can get started immediately that is the same for every patient, every time.”

Furnival believes that being part of an academic medical center gives the emergency department a distinct advantage when designing these protocols. Here physicians are responsible for educating residents and medical students, so they must be attuned to the latest research—and may have conducted some of it themselves.

Kharbanda, for instance, explored ways to evaluate children with possible appendicitis without automatically ordering a CT scan. The result of his work is an online evaluation tool for physicians that suggests a course of action for the child. This method can be shared with emergency departments around the country.

“Designing evidence-driven care protocols can be time-consuming,” says Kharbanda. “But the University supports its physicians in this work and holds to the larger vision of improving care for everyone.”

Mark Roback, M.D., and Ron Furnival, M.D., co-direct the Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine in the University of Minnesota's Department of Pediatrics. (Photo: Scott Streble)

Better care for all children

Combining teaching and research with first-rate innovative care is the essence of academic medicine. Sharing the knowledge gained in these pursuits is its mission—and it sets Amplatz Children’s Hospital’s emergency department apart from the pack.

According to Mark Roback, M.D., who codirects the Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine with Furnival, 90 percent of children in the United States are seen in emergency departments not connected to a children’s hospital.

“It’s important that we take care of the patients we have at Amplatz, but it’s just as important for us to be involved in making sure that children, regardless of where they are seen, receive a similar level of care,” he says. “That’s the responsibility of academic medicine.”

Access to excellence

Since Amplatz Children’s Hospital’s new emergency department opened its doors, it has seen a 46 percent increase in patients over the combined pediatric visits to the two University of Minnesota Medical Center emergency departments on its Riverside and East Bank campuses during the same timeframe last year.

Children arrive at the emergency department with a myriad of emergencies: everything from head injuries to stomach aches to complications from bone marrow transplants. They come from the city and the suburbs, from the Dakotas and from Amplatz’s new Riverside neighborhood, with its Somali, East African, Vietnamese, Central American, and Mexican families.

These children not only have 24-hour access to the expertise of pediatric emergency medicine physicians, but also to those trained in other subspecialties, like pediatric ophthalmology, dentistry, and infectious diseases.

“Our job—and what we love—is to take care of children,” says Roback. “No matter what brings them to us, our emergency department and the entire hospital will serve them with unmatched care.”

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