The Family Project: ER scrutiny
Q. My son fell off his bike and broke his arm. When we took him to the hospital Emergency Room (ER), they asked him and us a lot of questions that made me feel like they suspected us of abusing him (we didn’t). Does this happen to all parents who bring injured children for treatment?
The panel agreed that the experience of the parent asking the question is an outgrowth of contemporary society.
“I think in this day and age, doctors are doing a lot of covering their bets,” panelist Mike Daniels said, “so there are going to be lots of questions.”
“The reason behind the questioning is to prevent injury, and that is valid,” panelist Denise Continenza explained.
Panelist Pam Wallace added, “If the doctors and nurses are overzealous in their questioning, it is because they want to protect children. They want to be sure they haven’t missed anything. The family shouldn’t think it is being targeted.”
Panelist Erin Stalsitz, who said she has had direct experience with the topic, said some hospitals will report everything to ChildLine. “Everyone who comes into the room asks the same questions, and that is annoying. It is very scary that the world has come to this.”
There are situations where parents can expect to be questioned, according to the panel. If the family has a history in the ER, that is one situation. Or if the child has broken bones, that is another example.
“Any head trauma, or any kind of injury in private areas are red flags,” Stalsitz said.
Spiral fractures automatically are suspect, especially in very young children, Daniels said, because that type of fracture requires forceful twisting or jerking of the limbs.
The problem, panelist Chad Stefanyak said, is that spiral fractures can be a sign of physical abuse, or they can be caused by certain medical conditions.
Continenza advised parents to know that questioning is going to be part of a trip to the ER. She also suggested letting the child tell his story first, and then responding to questions themselves very matter-of-factly. “That indicates that there is nothing to hide. Kids are going to get hurt. Getting defensive creates more suspicion,” said Continenza.
By way of reassuring parents, Daniels emphasized that “if they are parenting their child out of love and not anger, they have nothing to be concerned about.”
This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, Program Coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist, CTS; Chad Stefanyak, school counselor; Denise Continenza, extension educator, and Erin Stalsitz, Lehigh County Children and Youth Casework Supervisor.
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The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.
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