New pediatric emergency department melds expert care with child-centered space

The Stanford Medicine Pediatric Emergency Department opened Aug. 10. The child-centered space puts kids at ease while medical professionals deliver advanced care.

- By Krista Conger

A river theme helps patients and family members navigate the new pediatric emergency department.
Sue Coppa

The emergency department can be a stressful place for children and their parents. But the new Stanford Medicine Pediatric Emergency Department, at 900 Quarry Road, is a bright, light-filled space abounding with images of nature and interactive installations designed to calm both patients and parents and to reflect the design of Stanford Medicine Children’s Health.

The child-focused space is fully staffed with board-certified pediatric emergency physicians and pediatric emergency trained nurses and technicians. They provide the highest level of care for ailments ranging from ear infections, to complications of chronic or congenital diseases, to sports or school mishaps, to major trauma. Child life specialists, who distract and educate children during exams and procedures, have received graduate-level training. The airy space provides clear sight lines to a child’s care team during the visit.

It opened Aug.10.

“This dedicated pediatric emergency department allows us to bring the full range of knowledge and expertise of Stanford Health Care into a space that’s intentionally designed for pediatric care,” said David Entwistle, president and CEO of Stanford Health Care. “Children and their families have unique, distinct needs for emergency care that differ from those of adults. We’ve been fortunate to have a unique opportunity to design this space specifically for children, whether from neighboring communities or from across the country, who need urgent access to both routine and specialized care.” 

Designed with children in mind

The new department includes two triage rooms and 15 patient care rooms — three of which will be used for critical resuscitation and trauma needs — as well as child-friendly waiting areas and a consult room. Rooms are designed to provide a safe, therapeutic space for patients with a wide variety of needs.

Since the opening of the new Stanford Hospital in November 2019, the pediatric emergency department has been housed in a repurposed adult emergency department while the surrounding space was renovated.

Images of friendly animals, such as river otters, grace the walls at the level of a child's eyes.
Sue Coppa

The new department was designed to make children and their families as comfortable as possible, with child-sized furniture, images of friendly animals to encourage imaginative play and a mountains-to-ocean river theme that delineates the flow of traffic as a patient moves through the department. Exam rooms accommodate parents or adult caregivers at the bedside, and translation services for 200 languages are available at any time of day or night for non-native English speakers. Tablets and in-room televisions provide a welcome distraction during distressing or uncomfortable procedures and can serve as instructive tools to help a child understand the procedures he or she will be undergoing, such as an MRI scan.

“Entering the emergency department can be the scariest moment in a young kid’s life,” said Andra Blomkalns, MD, professor and chair of emergency medicine at the Stanford School of Medicine. “Even those who are too young to remember their visit will likely live with its impact throughout their lives. This new space gives us the opportunity to meet children and their parents where they are with design elements and visual imagery that strives to put them more at ease even when discussing potentially serious concerns.”

Accommodating special needs kids

Older children or those with special needs will also appreciate the new space. “Child life specialists were consulted throughout the design,” said Blomkalns, noting that many patients visiting the emergency department have chronic conditions, such as attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder or autism. “Children who need additional stimulation, or those who need as little stimulation as possible, can be accommodated.”

For those children who are admitted for further care or observation, the department is seamlessly integrated into the neighboring Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.

Finally, Stanford Medicine is raising awareness of the services provided by the pediatric emergency department in neighboring communities before a child needs care.

“We want to build relationships with our patients and families so when they need us most they know where we are and feel comfortable coming to us for care,” Entwistle said.

About Stanford Medicine

Stanford Medicine is an integrated academic health system comprising the Stanford School of Medicine and adult and pediatric health care delivery systems. Together, they harness the full potential of biomedicine through collaborative research, education and clinical care for patients. For more information, please visit

2023 ISSUE 1

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