Pediatric emergency department melds expert care with child-centered space

The Marc and Laura Andreessen Pediatric Emergency Department at Stanford Medicine opened in 2022. This child-centered space puts young ones at ease while advanced care is delivered.

- By Krista Conger

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

Editor's note: This story was originally published Aug. 10, 2022, and updated June 2, 2023.

The emergency room can be a stressful place for children and their parents. But the new Marc and Laura Andreessen 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 late summer 2022.

“This dedicated pediatric emergency department, made possible by a significant, new gift from Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen and Marc Andreessen, 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 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 came to fruition through the generosity of Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen (BA ’92, MBA ’97, MA ’98, MA ’99) and Marc Andreessen. It includes two triage rooms and 15 patient care rooms — three of which are 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.

Marc Andreessen and Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen
Eliot Holtzman

“We have tremendous respect for the nurses, physicians and caregivers at the pediatric emergency department,” said Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen. “They are providing the highest-quality care for an endless variety of conditions and doing so with compassion along with an understanding of the special needs of children.”

The pediatric emergency department was designated a Comprehensive Pediatric Receiving Center by Santa Clara County Emergency Medical Services in 2022. It is also certified by the American College of Surgeons as a level 1 pediatric trauma center, the most advanced designation for caring for young patients with traumatic injuries.

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

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 child’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 strive 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,” said Entwistle.  

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

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