The importance of visiting a pediatric provider

When it’s time to seek care for a sick or injured child, parents may have questions about where to go. Is it OK to take a child to the local community hospital or a big general hospital? Or does going to a children’s hospital really make a difference?

The right place to take your child in most situations is to a pediatric provider. Pediatricians, pediatric nurses, and pediatric staff are specially trained in treating children. Facilities, equipment, and treatments are tailored toward children.

In an extreme emergency, the best place to go is the closest hospital emergency department. But even then, when children need a higher level of care, they may be transferred to a children’s hospital once they are stabilized. In most situations, you should try to take your child to a pediatric provider.

“Kids truly aren’t just small adults, so they deserve care that is suited especially to their needs,” says Brian Martin, DMD, vice president, Medical Affairs, UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. “That’s what’s at the heart of children’s hospitals, in a nutshell.”

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Reasons to Go to a Children’s Hospital

There are many reasons to take your child to a children’s hospital when you have the time to make a choice about where to take them.

They focus on kids

Children’s hospitals have a “different philosophy of care,” says Dr. Martin.

“The core mission and focus of pediatric hospitals is the health and well-being of children.”

Hospitals that treat primarily adults, or hospitals that treat both kids and adults, don’t have that same specific focus. That often makes pediatric hospitals the best option for children’s care.


Another reason why children should go to pediatric hospitals is the culture. That begins with the people who work there.

“The people who work at UPMC Children’s are educated and trained to understand pediatric patients who are still growing and developing,” Dr. Martin says. “We meet kids where they are, supporting them with appropriate, safe care.”

Family-focused care

In addition to caring for children, children’s hospitals also often focus on the entire family. They incorporate the child’s family into the process.

“We know that each child we have as a patient comes with a family — and that the family plays an essential role in the health of pediatric patients,” Dr. Martin says. “The families are our partners in care. We place a humble-heart focus on patient-family care.”

Child-friendly facilities

Pediatric hospitals are built to fit the sizes and needs of children, both in form and function. Some look more like classrooms or playgrounds than institutions. The idea is to make a more comfortable environment for children.

“Great care has been taken to create friendly, welcoming environments that are less intimidating to alleviate kids’ anxiety,” Dr. Martin says. “Visual interest in the form of bright, vibrant colors and interesting shapes help to create a positive, hopeful environment that has been scientifically proven to improve happiness and compassion levels.”

Appropriate medication and equipment

Pediatric doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and medical technicians all are keenly trained in appropriate dosing requirements. For children, these are done by weight.

Equipment in children’s hospitals also is sized for children.

“Pediatric-sized beds and equipment can be used with the tiniest of patients, empowered by people with specific knowledge of pediatric disease processes and care,” Dr. Martin says. “Children’s hospitals provide a higher level of care to kids than community hospitals can.”

Training and education

Children’s hospitals play a crucial role in education and advocacy for children. Also, the doctors, nurses, and other staff are specially trained in caring for kids.

UPMC Children’s trains the majority of pediatricians who practice in the western Pennsylvania region, Dr. Martin says.

“We also train pediatric residents, fellows, medical students, and others,” he adds.

Child life services

Children who are hospitalized need extra support during the school year. Child life specialists are master’s degree-prepared child development experts who support both kids and parents during a child’s hospitalization. They can coordinate school services with a child’s home school district.

“They visit every inpatient and some outpatients as a vital part of the care team,” Dr. Martin says. “Child life specialists can support patients with learning, as well as supply dolls, toys, videos, games, puzzles, and other activities to occupy kids’ minds and hands while they heal.”

Social workers

When a child has ongoing medical care needs, social workers become an indispensable source of help for their families.

Pediatric social workers can help provide access to insurance, housing, transportation, and other community resources. They provide a lifeline to families of more frequently hospitalized patients who may be grappling with a child’s severe illness or injury.

Alternative therapists

Kids sometimes have trouble expressing their feelings verbally, so children’s hospitals often take a different approach to therapy. Many use music, art, sculpture, and other visual and digital media as part of their care. Master’s degree-prepared therapists help children express themselves and make their hospital stays more comforting and relaxed.

Behavioral health

Children with mental, emotional, and behavioral health needs may benefit from working with therapists who specialize in working with kids.

Pediatric and adolescent psychologists are embedded in most UPMC Children’s Community Pediatrics primary care practices out in the communities. This wide coverage helps ensure adequate and equitable access to mental health care across the region and network.


Some children’s hospitals have a research component, giving access to cutting-edge options for care.

UPMC Children’s ranks seventh nationally in funding from the National Institutes of Health for research.

“UPMC Children’s is a tremendous engine for pediatric research,” Dr. Martin says. “We are nationally ranked as one of the top children’s hospitals for research nationwide and have a close relationship with the University of Pittsburgh Department of Medicine.”

Often, discoveries in the lab become a part of patient treatments.

“Many of our researchers also have clinical roles, so new treatments go from bench to bedside quickly,” Dr. Martin says.

Health equity

Pediatric hospitals strive to provide equal care for all children, including those in underserved communities.

Through its primary care network, UPMC Children’s has locations throughout the region, offering closer access to care in underserved areas. One program is Salud Para Niños, a bilingual, multicultural clinic. Other initiatives include parenting classes, CPR training, and nurse coordinator services.

UPMC Children’s strong focus on digital health and strategic planning also promotes equity, Dr. Martin adds.

Specialty care

If your child has a specific health condition, they may benefit from seeing a pediatric specialist for that condition. For example, a child with a congenital heart condition would benefit from seeing a pediatric heart specialist. Pediatric specialists are affiliated with children’s hospitals.

UPMC Children’s has more than 175 different specialty clinics and services. It ranks in the top 10 of U.S. News and World Report’s Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. It also received Magnet® recognition for nursing excellence and Leapfrog Group recognition for patient safety and quality.

UPMC Children’s is world-renowned for its pioneering care in the fields of transplantation, cardiology, rare diseases, and cancer care, to name just a few.

When your child is sick or hurt, you want the best care for them. The benefits outlined above are just some of the many reasons why a children’s hospital is the preferred choice for treating a child’s illness or injury.

UPMC Children’s is a regional, national, and global leader in providing world-class care for children. We have locations throughout our communities, so you can find care for your child close to home. For more about our services and locations, visit our website.

About UPMC

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.