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Visiting SickKids

Coming to Emergency

A visit to an Emergency Department is something no one looks forward to. However, we hope this page will explain what to expect and answer some of your questions. If at any time you need more help, please ask the nurse caring for your child.

Our staff is committed to providing children with the best care possible within the limits of our resources. If you have any comments or concerns about your child's care and treatment, please speak to your child's nurse or doctor. Please note: If your car is parked on the street, you may be in a tow away zone. Please check! Move your car to our underground garage: the entrance is on Elm Street.

About food and drink

Please talk to the triage nurse, your child's nurse, or a doctor before giving your child anything to eat or drink. Some tests and medicines can only be given on an empty stomach. If your child does eat or drink something, it may delay his or her treatment.

Arriving in the Emergency Department

The Emergency Department is located on the Main Floor of the Atrium. The entrance from the Atrium is located next to the Main Information Desk. When you arrive at the Emergency Department, the first person you will meet with is a triage nurse who will assess your child's medical care needs. Based on this information, our staff decide who gets seen first. Children are treated based on need, not the order in which they arrive. The more seriously ill or hurt the child is, the more quickly he or she gets treated. This is how all Emergency Departments work.

After the triage nurse has assessed your child, you will be asked to register and then take a seat in the waiting room.

As part of registration, you may be asked to fill out a Health Equity Demographic Information Form. This form asks patients and their caregivers to provide demographic information, such as ethnicity, spoken language, gender and income. We are collecting this information to learn more about our patients and families, to help us plan and improve care and services, and to ensure that we are providing the best possible care for all. It is your choice to give SickKids this information. Patient care will not be affected if you choose not to fill out a form.

How long will you have to wait?

How long you wait depends on how ill your child is, and which staff and treatment rooms are free.

If we are treating critically ill or injured children, you may have to wait a long time. And of course, an emergency case can arrive at any time. Please be patient. You will be seen as quickly as possible.

Evenings are very busy, especially between 6 p.m. and 12 a.m.

If you have any concerns, or your child's condition changes, talk to the triage nurse.

Who will see your child?

When it is your child's turn, an assessment will be carried out in two stages. First, you will meet your child's nurse who will examine your child and ask more questions.

Then, the doctor will continue the examination and arrange for your child to be treated. Because SickKids is a teaching hospital, your child may be seen by more than one doctor or nurse.

The Emergency Department paediatrician has final responsibility for your child's care.

In a few cases, the paediatrician may decide that your child needs to see another specialist. For example, your child may need to be seen by an orthopaedic (bone) surgeon or ear, nose and throat specialist.

Sometimes, these specialists are busy elsewhere in the hospital: unfortunately, it may mean another wait.

We may decide that your child should receive care at your local hospital. If so, we will make the arrangements for your child's admission and transport.

What happens when you go home?

After your child has been treated, you will be given written instructions to take home.

You may be asked to visit your family doctor or to make an appointment in one of the hospital clinics. There are different ways to make appointments for our clinics. Your child's doctor will explain the next step.

If you need a clinic appointment, please read your copy of the brochure, Welcome to Our Clinics. It is full of useful information about your visit.

If your child's condition is not improved or is worsening, you should contact your child's regular doctor or you may take your child to the closest Emergency Department. You can obtain free medical advice from Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000.

What if your child has to stay in hospital?

The doctor may decide that your child should stay in hospital for further care.

When a room has been assigned, you will go to the Admitting Department to complete the necessary papers. Then, your child's care will be handed over to the medical and nursing staff on your child's unit.

While you wait for a room, please be assured that your child will be monitored and cared for by the Emergency Department staff.

On most units, one parent may stay overnight in the child's room.

More useful information

The Emergency Department is on the Main Floor in the Atrium. There’s an information desk in the Atrium and someone is there for most of the day and evening. If no-one is there, ask for directions at the Admitting Department which is close by.

  • Pay phones, 5 Fifty 5 Gift Shop, and a variety of places where you can buy food and drinks are all on the Main Floor.
  • A Shoppers Drug Mart is on the Main Floor in the University Wing.
  • Cabs are usually available outside The Toronto Hospital, right across the street from the Emergency entrance.
  • At the Play Park, volunteers will look after your child's brothers and sisters, aged 2 1/2 and over. It is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and weekends from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. It closes on holidays. The Play Park is on the Main Floor in the Atrium.
  • Smoking is not allowed inside or outside the hospital, including the underground parking lot and driveway.
  • Cellular telephones can interfere with our equipment. Please turn off your cellular phone when you are in any area of the hospital where we care for patients or when you are near a patient attached to any kind of medical equipment.
  • The Family Bill of Rights and Responsibilities outlines what we, as parents and staff, can expect from each other. Look for it in the waiting room.

Last but not least

If you have suggestions that would help us improve our services, contact the Office of Patient and Family Experience office at 416-813-6181 or drop by Room M223 (near the University elevators).

We are a teaching hospital

At The Hospital for Sick Children, we not only look after children who are ill, but we also teach people who want to be doctors, nurses, and other health care workers. These trainees will be involved in your child's care. They work with the nurse and paediatrician who are responsible for your child's care.