It’s official! An expanded Emergency Department (ED) – designed with family needs and operational efficiency in mind – will be a vital part of our new patient care facility opening spring 2013. The last thing families want to do when they come to the ED is sit in a waiting room until a caregiver can see their child. In the new ED at Seattle Children’s, a nurse will initiate care as soon as families walk through the door – one of many improvements families will experience when the new facility opens in 2013 as part of our Building Hope expansion project.

Our existing ED is overwhelmed. ED visits climbed to 36,700 in 2011 and are expected to increase another 27percent by 2020. The new ED will increase our capacity from 25 rooms to 38 rooms and support a more efficient model of care.

After collecting very basic information, an intake nurse will lead patients straight to a room where another nurse will order tests, set up IVs and provide medicine right away instead of waiting until a doctor arrives a licensed medical provider will evaluate the need for immediate care and order tests or treatments as needed.  Initiating care as early as possible will improve patient flow, leading to shorter stays for families and keeping beds available for other patients. “Families should never have to wait for a room in the new ED except during an extreme surge,” says Dawn Cotter, who leads emergency services.

Every room in the ED is arranged, equipped and stocked identically so we can treat any patient in any room. If it turns out that a patient needs more specialized care, they won’t have to move to another room because the supplies they need will arrive on carts. The ED also will have its own radiology center so patients won’t have to leave the ED for X-rays, ultrasound and fluoroscopy.

We designed the new ED with help from a broad cross-section of families and staff to ensure it will meet everyone’s needs. Larger rooms will make it easier for family members to remain with patients. “Porches” will provide space for families and caregivers to confer right outside each room. And caregivers will be stationed in a central island where every room is visible, improving teamwork and communication and assuring anxious families that help is always in sight and never far away.

“No one wants to come to an emergency department,” says Dr. Tony Woodward, who leads Emergency Medicine at Children’s. “Our goal is to create a welcoming environment where families will know they received the best care possible and are glad they chose us.”