5 Things for Parents to Know about Emergency Care

While urgent care facilities can provide only limited medical services to children and adolescents, the Bon Secours St. Mary's Pediatric Emergency Department is prepared to help Central Virginia families with everything from injuries to infections. Here are just some examples of conditions treated at St. Mary's regularly:

  • Head injuries
  • Asthma
  • Allergic reactions
  • Chest pain or difficulty breathing
  • Deep, open wounds
  • Compound fractures
  • Ear or eye infections
  • Severe cough/cold
  • Stitches
  • Minor burns
  • Sprains or strains

The difference between pediatric urgent care facilities and the Bon Secours St. Mary's Pediatric Emergency Department is the level of care and treatment that each facility is capable of providing. When a child suffers life-threatening injuries or very severe illness, the Bon Secours St. Mary's Pediatric Emergency Department is the best option for immediate care, whereas non-life-threatening conditions like minor cuts and cold or flu symptoms are suitable for urgent care.

A child living with a chronic medical problem who becomes sick (such as asthma or sickle cell disease) is a better candidate for care in the pediatric emergency department. Furthermore, if a child is dehydrated, needs IV fluids or needs sedation or surgery, that child is going to find his or her best option for care in a pediatric emergency department. Other common emergencies in children that should be treated in a pediatric emergency department include obviously broken bone, complex, gaping laceration, seizure, severe allergic reaction, fever under two months of age or someone who may need to see a specialist (i.e. orthopedist, cardiologist, etc.)

Frank Petruzella, M.D., medical director of the St. Mary's Pediatric Emergency Department, says that asthma is one of the most common examples of when a patient went to urgent care but should have come to the pediatric emergency department. "At the Bon Secours St. Mary's Pediatric Emergency Department, we often see asthmatics that are having a significant asthma attack go to urgent care first, who need to be transferred to the emergency department, often by ambulance," he said.

Here are five ways parents can be better prepared in the event a child needs emergency care:


Think in advance about the steps you need to take if a child is ill or injured. Know the closest possible location for care, and always have your insurance information handy.


Feeling upset or uneasy when the child needs emergency care is perfectly normal. However, remaining calm will benefit both the child and the work of their caretakers.


If it's possible, leaving brothers and sisters at home or with a relative will help you give the sick or injured child your full attention.


Precise, accurate explanations of how the child was injured, or the symptoms he or she is experiencing, can help caretakers diagnose and properly treat the child as quickly as possible.


Let the child's doctor or pediatrician know the results of any emergency care, to make sure it's noted in their medical file for future treatment.

At the St. Mary's Pediatric Emergency Department, all doctors are board certified in pediatric emergency medicine and staff is specially trained to care for pediatric patients, only working with pediatric patients and their families. St. Mary's believes in family-centered care; a certified child life specialist that assists with age-appropriate coping and distraction techniques to reduce the stress of an unexpected emergency department visit on the child.

"When you bring your child to St. Mary's, everyone that you'll interact with here has the same goal, and that goal is really to treat your child the same way I would want my child treated when I take them to the emergency department," said Frank Petruzella, M.D., medical director of the St. Mary's Pediatric Emergency Department.

If the child is sick enough to require admission, St. Mary's maintains a full complement of pediatric hospitalists, intensivists, and specialists. "In addition to having a separate pediatric emergency department, our children's services at Bon Secours are quite comprehensive, as we offer pediatric specialists and subspecialists in neurology, cleft and craniofacial care, endocrinology and diabetes, gastroenterology, pulmonary diseases, and urology, among many others."