An ouchless place
for care

WakeMed’s focus on keeping its emergency department as painless as possible

The WakeMed Children’s Emergency Department in Raleigh is well-known throughout the Triangle as an excellent place to take children requiring emergency medical attention, since staff members provide stellar care in a child-friendly environment. But what many may not know is that the staff also is committed to making area children’s visits as painless as possible. In layman’s terms, the WakeMed Children’s Emergency Department is ouchless.

“At WakeMed, we focus on the whole child,” explains Dr. Amy Griffin, medical director of the Children’s Emergency Department. “That means caring for a child’s physical needs as well as his or her emotional needs. When children arrive in the emergency department, they are frequently in pain, and they’re scared. We use a number of tactics to calm them down and keep them comfortable during what can be a tough experience for them and their parents.”

Child-life specialists play a critical role in helping children feel as relaxed and ouchless as possible as well.

“Their job is to answer questions and address children’s concerns about pain while they are being treated,” Griffin says. “They are great at easing fears, and they give kids power by providing them with education about what’s happening to them and around them.”

For example, the specialists use dolls to show kids how they will get stitches. For younger patients, they blow bubbles, do crafts and read books to distract them during treatments.

Adding comfort
Technology also is a great tool when kids’ nerves are on edge. The Children’s ED uses iPods with age-appropriate music to help comfort children and reduce their anxiety during treatment. Kids also have access to flat-screen TVs, as well as an extensive collection of DVDs and video games. The Children’s ED waiting room even boasts an interactive floor where children can play.

In addition to diversionary methods, there are some groundbreaking medicines that help caregivers greatly reduce or altogether eliminate pain during procedures, including:

Intranasal Fentanyl: This is a nose spray pain reliever that can eliminate the need for an IV morphine drip. It works within minutes, and it’s much more effective at treating pain than oral analgesics. It’s also extremely helpful for children with burns.
Synera Patch: This medicine basically is a local anesthetic that numbs the skin and helps kids to avoid feeling the pinch of a needle.
LET: This is another topical anesthetic that is a combination of several medicines that numb nerve endings and eliminate pain, particularly for kids who come in with lacerations.
Nitrous oxide: This is a gas that children 3 and older can breathe in through a mask to help relieve pain and anxiety.
The Children’s ED environment also plays an important role in establishing a child’s comfort level.

“We’ve created a nighttime sky on the X-ray room ceiling, so kids can look up and see the planets and the constellations while having an X-ray performed,” Griffin says. “We’ve even designed an underwater world in our second X-ray room, where fish swim on the walls and kids can imagine that they’re in a submarine.”

WakeMed also offers a dedicated treatment room in its Children’s Hospital for minor procedures and treatments. This room allows a parent to stay with a child from start to finish. Knowing that there is a family member present often keeps a child calm throughout the entire procedure.

So while it’s never fun to have to take a child to the emergency department, the folks at WakeMed are making it bearable. More than that, they’re working hard to make it as ouchless as possible.

For more information on WakeMed Children’s Emergency Department, visit