Child Life specialists, therapy dog and other amenities distinguish Inova’s pediatric services

Inova Fair Oaks Hospital (IFOH) and Inova Loudoun Hospital (ILH) have initiated programs and services to help children feel more comfortable, safe and secure. These include the Child Life program and use of ILH’s facility dog, Jeremiah. Kid-friendly surrounding also help to ease children’s anxiety.

“Kid-friendly” is a term usually associated with fun places or activities. But it also applies to the array of pediatric services and facilities available at Inova Loudoun Hospital (ILH) and Inova Fair Oaks Hospital (IFOH). Both hospitals tailor emergency and inpatient care to young patients so their experience is comfortable, convenient and positive.

Dedicated children’s emergency rooms at both hospitals — incorporating a mix of therapy dog cuddles, anxiety-taming measures from Child Life specialists, safe and gentle sedation options and a sensory-friendly approach — have received well-earned kudos while continuing to expand in scope. ILH’s 13-year-old Children’s ER, for instance, was one of a handful of ERs nationwide to receive the Lantern Award from the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) for exceptional practice and innovation.

“So many children live in our community; it’s great for families to know they have this level of specialized care right here in the region,” says ER physician Jill McCabe, MD, Medical Director of Pediatrics at ILH. “We’re very lucky to have an incredibly motivated team constantly looking to enhance our services and make them more child-friendly.”

Feel-good strategies

The Children’s ER at IFOH has been open for two years and, like ILH, implemented a Child Life program that helps children feel supported and secure throughout their stay. Specially trained staff help kids understand any medical procedure they’re undergoing, positioning them for comfort and diverting their focus to relieve pain and anxiety.

Nitrous oxide — a safe, gentle inhaled sedative commonly used at dentist offices — is used at IFOH and ILH, bolstering the Child Life team’s effects. “It’s great for stitching up an anxious child and really makes things go smoother for both the families and the providers,” says Paul Tripathi, MD, Pediatric Lead Physician in IFOH’s ER. “Between that and the Child Life specialists, there’s much less fretting.”

At ILH, a facility dog named Jeremiah expanded the hospital’s Child Life team in 2017, minimizing young patients’ stress with his unique blend of cuddles and tricks. The Children’s ER at ILH has also implemented a sensory-friendly approach, geared for the estimated 1 in 60 children coping with sensory issues or autism.

Full-service units

Both ILH and IFOH have full-service pediatric units for those kids who require an inpatient stay. Their parents can spend their much-earned downtime during stressful moments in dedicated sleep spaces and lounge areas.

If an even higher level of care is needed, both hospitals also have seamless access to Inova Children’s Hospital (ICH) in Fairfax, Northern Virginia’s only dedicated children’s hospital with a Level 1 trauma center and pediatric intensive care unit. Both hospitals’ neonatal intensive care units (NICU) and five of Inova’s urgent care centers (UCCs), which offer specialized children’s services (Reston, Dulles South, Tyson’s Corner, Manassas and West Springfield), also have direct access to ICH.

“Our goal is really to make it a seamless transition of care,” Dr. Tripathi says. “You can be anywhere in the Inova system and be cared for by Inova Children’s Hospital or an arm of it. Even if your journey ends up outside your community, you can start it in your neighborhood and make that transition. We want to be the go-to for pediatric care for any child in our community who needs emergency care.”

Should I take my child to the Urgent Care Center or ER?

Urgent Care Centers typically manage non-life threatening medical conditions such as:

  • Simple lacerations that may need stitches
  • Injured arms or legs that may need X-rays to detect sprains, strains or fractures
  • Fever
  • Asthma exacerbations
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Skin infections
  • Sore throats

Conditions that may be better managed in the ER include:

  • Complex lacerations requiring sedation or plastic surgery
  • Concussions
  • Head injury involving loss of consciousness, vomiting or severe trauma (such as car accidents)
  • Injured arms or legs with obvious deformities
  • Fever in infants under 2 months
  • Severe difficulty breathing
  • Seizures
  • Severe pain with swallowing
  • Fever with rash or neck stiffness
  • Mental health emergencies (including overdose or suicidal thoughts)

Care Close to Home

Learn more about the pediatric services available in your neighborhood.

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