Why Do Parents Bring Children to the Emergency Department for Nonurgent Conditions?

This article examines the reasoning behind frequent nonurgent pediatric visits to emergency rooms. While nonurgent visits make up more than half of all pediatric emergency department (ED) visits, few studies have closely examined this trend.

Researchers conducted ethnographic interviews with parents who brought their children to the emergency room for nonurgent reasons. Over the course of four weeks, 31 families were interviewed.

Key Findings:

  • Caregivers who chose to bring their children to the ED cited appointment delays, dissatisfaction with primary care providers, communication problems, convenience, and perceived ED quality of care and expertise with children.
  • Some parents expressed a desire for more education about identifying urgent pediatric conditions.

Reducing the number of nonurgent pediatric ED visits may require substantial improvements in families' experiences with their primary care providers.