Emergency: 911
Telecare: 811
Poison: 1-800-565-8161
5850/5980 University Ave., Halifax, NS B3K 6R8

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Emergency Services - Frequently Asked Questions

The IWK Emergency Department is the only tertiary care children's emergency in the Maritimes. All members of the Emergency Department are highly trained specialists in emergency care. We understand that parents/guardians and families are anxious and concerned about their child's health. The IWK takes your role in your child's health very seriously.

During your visit, you and your child will:

  • Receive the best care possible in the most efficient manner;
  • Be treated with respect and compassion;
  • Leave Emergency with a clear understanding of your child's illness/injury; and,
  • Know if/when you need to visit Emergency or your family doctor again.

Who is a Triage Nurse?

The Triage Nurse is the first person you will meet at the Emergency Department. The Triage Nurse is an experienced pediatric emergency nurse who makes sure that very sick or seriously injured children receive immediate attention.

The Triage Nurse also helps children whose condition becomes worse while in the waiting room, or who start to have some discomfort. When you are in Emergency, if your child is in pain, please tell the Triage Nurse before your child is seen by the doctor.

How long will I wait to see a doctor?

The average wait to see a doctor in Emergency is about two hours. In the evening, between 6 pm and midnight, the wait may be longer than during the day. There may be several reasons for your wait:

  • When a critically ill child comes to our department, all of our nurses and doctors may be required to care for that one patient. This may occur at any time.
  • Several seriously ill children may be in our department at one time, requiring all our resources.
  • As a teaching health centre, we ensure that student doctors discuss each patient with the pediatrician on duty.

Be assured that we are doing our best to be as efficient as possible while continuing to provide good care.

What is the Emergency Department doing about these waits?

We have developed a "fast track system" that will operate on some evenings and on weekends during the busy periods. This system will help all children be seen sooner.

What should I do before coming to the Emergency Department?

We encourage you to call your doctor before coming to the Emergency Department, unless there is not time to do so. Your doctor may be able to see you at his/her clinic.

When should I bring my child to the IWK Emergency Department?

This department provides emergency care to sick and injured children. For some illnesses, the Emergency Department is the best place for your child to receive care. However, there are also many conditions that can safely be seen by a family doctor or pediatrician. If you are unable to speak with your doctor and are concerned, please bring your child to the Emergency Department.

How can I help?

As parents you are an important part of the children's Emergency Department. There are many ways you can get involved to help the Emergency Department meet your needs:

  • Volunteer to staff our waiting room in the evening, to provide information and assistance to other parents; and,
  • Let us know of any comments, concerns or suggestions you may have.