When your children need emergency care, River Falls Area Hospital's Emergency Department (ED) is close and convenient.
"At our ED, we treat young patients like family in a reassuring atmosphere," said Karen Swenson, RN, who manages the department. "We even have bedside registration."
Since December 2012, the ED has offered nitrous oxide sedation to children undergoing frightening or uncomfortable procedures. (See the sidebar at right for details.) No other hospital in the area provides this service.
"Nitrous oxide is a safe, fast-acting inhaled medicine," explained Swenson. "It wears off quickly, making it a great choice to calm a child for placing an IV, giving stitches or inserting a urinary catheter.
"We also have many treatment options that don't involve needles or that make injections easier for children to handle," Swenson said. For example, pain-relieving and anxiety-reducing medicines can be sprayed into a child's nose. A needle-free device called a J-Tip can numb the skin before a child gets an IV or spinal tap.
"It's never fun to come to the ED," Swenson said, "but we make ours as welcoming as possible." To keep kids entertained, the hospital auxiliary has donated doctor kits, bubbles, glitter wands, Slinkys and pinwheels.
There's even a wagon to transport young patients to and from X-ray. River Falls Area Hospital's ED is capable of treating all emergencies. If specialized treatment is needed, a seamless transfer to St. Paul Children's Hospital is arranged. In the meantime, kids in emergency situations benefit from the best new techniques to reduce their fear and pain.
Many medical procedures require a patient to stay still - a tall order for most young children. "Nitrous oxide calms kids," explained Karen Swenson, RN. "It's the 'laughing' gas you may have gotten at your dentist's office." Your child first chooses a favorite smell, such as bubble gum. He or she then breathes in the pleasant-smelling medicine through a mask. The mask is held gently in place until your child feels drowsy. The effect disappears quickly after the mask is removed.
"The nitrous oxide made the ED experience not as scary for our daughter Emma," stated Deanna Freese. Nitrous oxide has both benefits and risks, which your child's nurse or doctor will discuss with you.
Healthy Communities magazine, spring 2013
Karen Swenson, RN
Emma relaxes with her mom, Deanna Freese, by her side after receiving nitrous oxide gas before having a needle procedure done.