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Despite being busy right now, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital emergency department has a unique method of handling the onslaught

We got an insider’s perspective from Dr. Erica Michiels, medical director of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Emergency Department.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — With cold and flu season in full swing, the Emergency Department at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital has been extremely busy. To provide excellent care to the smallest of patients, the Emergency Department has processes in place to run like a well-oiled machine any time of the year.   

We got an insider’s perspective from Dr. Erica Michiels, medical director of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Emergency Department.

She acknowledged, it can be scary for parents taking their children to the emergency department but said HDVCH has a novel process where they triage patients to separate areas of the ED that are staffed appropriately for patient acuity (how sick they are and how many interventions they think they will need.)  This allows them to put the right patient in the right room at the right time with appropriate nursing ratios and provider mix.  

Dr. Michiels said that prevents patients with easily addressed lower acuity problems from waiting for long periods while the team continues to bring back the sickest first and provide timely care to both populations simultaneously.  

“In recognition of the pediatric behavioral health crisis we have recently modified our patient flow for our behavioral health patients getting them to a quiet, more calm area of the ED faster, with specially trained behavioral health techs and fantastic social work support,” said Dr. Michiels. “The US health care system in general has a long way to go with mental health care, but we are doing what we can in our own department to provide the best, quickest and most healing care we can to this special population.”  

As far as wait times in a busy emergency department, Dr. Michiels said their goal is that any family who comes to them for any reason can be seen as soon as possible. She said wait times vary throughout the day based on volume, but even with the most recent surge in viral cases their median wait times are about 30 minutes.  

“Usually door to doctor times are around 11 minutes in our department,” said Dr. Michiels. 

As for the surges in traffic caused by things like RSV and the cold/flu season, Dr. Michiels said, “During every year, not just this surge year, we have a variable and adjustable provider and nursing schedule. Our provider schedule is unique as we schedule ‘at risk’ time where the physician is essentially on call. If the department is slow he/she can go home, but if the department is busy they stay. If a few hours later we get an unexpected surge of patients, the provider comes back. During winter surges, we always add a shift.  This winter, we added two extra shifts. Our ability to quickly adjust the provider schedule is a big win for our department and our patients.  This is unique and not done elsewhere but really allows us to provide the right number of physicians in the department based on need.”

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