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Your Emergency Room Visit | Overview

The Emergency Department Step-by-Step / Departamento de Emergencia Paso-a-Paso

When to Go to the Emergency Room

You may bring your child to Children's Emergency Department at any time -- without an appointment -- if your child needs immediate medical care.
If your child needs immediate medical attention and you cannot safely transport your child to the hospital, please call 911 immediately.

Arriving at the Emergency Department

You will be seen by a nurse shortly after you arrive.  These registered nurses are specially trained in pediatric emergency care. It is important to give all the needed information to the nurse. If your child has a life-threatening or very serious illness or injury, he or she will be seen by a doctor right away.

The nurse will bring you and your child to an exam room in the triage area. The nurse will ask you some questions and check your child's temperature and weight. He or she will also briefly examine your child.

During the busiest times, the sickest children are seen first.


After triage, you usually go to the registration area. The administrative staff will ask you questions, such as your address and telephone number. It is important to give complete information. This helps us to contact you or your child's doctor about your child's care.

Insurance companies often require us to obtain approval for emergency department visits. If your child's doctor has not already called in with an approval, the administrative staff will need to call. These calls can take time. We ask for your patience.

We are available to treat your child even if your insurer does not approve the visit. You will be asked to pay for the bill yourself. If this is a problem or you do not have insurance, our financial counselors can assist you.

Reception Area

You will be asked to take a seat in the reception area if an exam room is not available. There are some toys and a TV tuned to children's programs. A child life specialist is available during the evening to offer activities, answer questions and help keep you informed about the wait.

A nurse may tell you not to give your child anything to eat or drink while waiting. Please follow these instructions.

Exam Room

As soon as possible, you and your child will be brought to an exam room where a team of doctors and nurses will care for your child. There are senior doctors, called attending physicians, who supervise care in the emergency department.

If your child needs blood tests, x-rays or other tests, it may take an hour or more to get the results.

A parent or guardian must stay with his or her child at all times. Two family members may stay with the child in the exam room. Other family members may stay in the reception area. 

Being Admitted to the Hospital

If your child is admitted to the hospital directly from the Emergency Department, please speak with staff from the Admitting Office and the Patient Business Office as soon as possible.

In the Admitting Office, you will be asked to sign forms that permit the hospital to perform tests and provide treatment. In the Patient Business Office, you will receive information about insurance coverage and the billing process.

Interpreters are staffed by the hospital to assist patients and families with limited or no English language proficiency.

If these offices are closed at the time your child is admitted, a staff member from the Emergency Department will advise you what to do.

Admitting Office
Location: Main Building, 1st Floor
Hours: Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m. to midnight; Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, 8 a.m. to midnight
Phone: 617-355-6644

Going Home

The doctor or nurse will usually give you printed instructions when your child is ready to leave. These instructions have information on how to care for your child's illness or injury and will tell you about follow-up care.

During your visit to the emergency department if you have questions or concerns that your child's doctor or nurse cannot answer, please ask to speak to the attending physician or charge nurse.

Who is Who? 

Attending Physician

the supervising pediatric emergency doctor (MD)


emergency physicians receiving specialized training in pediatric emergency medicine (MD)


doctor in training (MD)

Registered Nurse

emergency nurse specially trained in the care of children and families

Clinical Assistant

assists nurses with patient care

Child Life Specialist

provides support to patient during procedures

Social Worker

assists patients and families with personal, medical and environmental needs

Case Manager

coordinates home care needs

Ambulatory Service Representative (ASR)

completes registration, admission and check-out

Other Urgent Visits

Many departments offer urgent visits daily. Your child's primary care physician often will call and request a same day appointment for certain situations. If you need to see a specialist at Children's immediately, please call your primary care physician and ask for an urgent referral to Children's.

If you are unsure about whether your child's injury or sudden illness needs emergency care, treat it as an emergency. Call 911 or your local emergency medical services immediately.


Interpreter Services arranges for interpreters in more than 35 languages to assist patients and families. You may request an interpreter before you come to the hospital. If you need an interpreter while you are in the hospital, please ask your child's nurse or page the interpreter on-call through the page operator, at ext. 5-6369.

Spanish-speaking interpreters are available 24 hours a day; they are in the hospital on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on-call evenings and weekends. The interpreter on-call can also help locate interpreters in other languages to help in person or via a three-way phone conference.

All families need to communicate clearly about their child's hospital experience. If you need an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, ask your child's nurse or physician to contact the interpreter on call through the page operator, 617-355-6369 (available 24 hours/day). Deaf persons can leave messages for the ASL interpreter at 617-355-6603/TTY. For more information on TTY services at the hospital, see telephone and TTY.