In my last post, I discussed the design differences between adult and pediatric radiology units and how these differences impact children patient outcomes. The same may be said for other specialized pediatric units, such as emergency departments. While the basic ER program is similar for adults and children, key design choices can have an impact on a child’s sense of well-being.

Security is a consideration in a pediatric ED to ensure children’s protection. Many pediatric ED’s have secured vestibules and registration desks to properly identify the walk-in wounded and ascertain guardianship. This is especially important in urban areas, where staff may have to deal with high-volume traffic. Security cameras, visually open vestibules, well-placed signage, and clear wayfinding between check-in, triage, and treatment rooms all play into children’s security.

Treatment rooms need to accommodate patients, family members/guardians, and caregivers. There should also be a specialized treatment room designed to ensure a safe environment for the child or adolescent with a behavioral or mental health need.

Other considerations include comforting finishes and positive distractions, in which color, lighting, materials, and furnishings appeal to all age groups; intimate spaces where families can wait in private; and staff control, where caregivers can maintain visibility and easy access between all exam and treatment rooms.

For the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital, which opened in April 2011, we employed a number of these features, including a highly visible entrance vestibule, eight state-of-the-art treatment rooms with family space and accommodations for personal belongings, and two fully-equipped trauma rooms.

No one wants to be in a pediatric emergency department. This is a stressful prospect for the parents—and especially for children. By making the right design decisions, we can lower stress, streamline the caregiver process, and improve children’s outcome.