Dignity, Respect Run in This Nurse’s Family

Not a day goes by that we at CHOC Children’s don’t consider the great impact of nurses – but this week, Nurses Week,  presents us with a formal occasion to celebrate our nursing staff.

In today’s blog post, we hear how Julia Afrasiabi, an Emergency Department charge nurse, is making futures bright for the children of Orange County, and her personal connection to nursing.

When it comes to Julia Afrasiabi’s bedside manner, the charge nurse in the Julia and George Argyros Emergency Department at CHOC Children’s Hospital takes a cue from mom.

“My mom’s a pediatric hospice nurse,” Julia says. “Her big things are dignity and respect – she always taught me that.”

Though a hospice nurse – who works to ensure children with terminal illnesses live their final days comfortable and surrounded by love – performs different duties than an Emergency Department (ED) nurse, Julia draws constant inspiration from her mother.

“I see my mom’s compassion for parents of dying children, so I ask myself how I could not give the same compassion to parents of children I see,” Julia says.

Julia didn’t always want to follow in her mother’s nursing footsteps; at first, she dreamed of being an interior decorator.

After deciding to be a nurse, her pediatrics specialty was hard-earned. As a nursing student, Julia experienced a personal loss of a child in her life. The painful event left Julia unsure if she could work in a setting where the death of a child was a possibility.

But once again, her mother had good advice. “She told me that personal experiences make you better,” Julia says.

And Julia’s next rotation at school sealed the deal: pediatrics.

“I loved that children were so bright,” she recalls. “Even during the worst of situations, they are happy. I love that.”

When Julia’s mother visits CHOC, the duo will meet for lunch, where there is no shortage of conversation fodder.

“There’s an interesting juxtaposition between our jobs,” Julia says. “The ED is about saving and prolonging life; my mom’s job is about the end of life. It leads to some interesting philosophical discussions.”

Unfortunately, tragedy can make Julia’s work more closely resemble her mother’s. During those difficult times especially, she channels mom.

“In the ED, I can bring healing hands,” Julia says. “But when we can’t heal, my presence can be a calming and peaceful time in a patient’s life.”

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Orange County’s Only ER Just for Kids

The Julia and George Argyros Emergency Department at CHOC Children’s Hospital is Orange County’s first all-pediatric emergency department. But did you know that children don’t have to appear seriously ill in order to come here for evaluation and treatment?

That’s because children often have quite different symptoms than adults. A high fever, stomachache or other mysterious aches and pains that would not to appear be serious in an adult can, in fact, be dire for children. When in doubt, it’s always best to let the experts decide. And no one knows more about babies, kids and teens than the pediatric professionals at CHOC Children’s. 

We sat down with James Pierog, M.D., medical director of CHOC emergency medical services, to find out what else parents should know about CHOC’s emergency department. 

Q. Okay, so how do I know if I should take my child to the emergency department?

Dr. Pierog: Always trust your gut. We treat a variety of ailments, big and small, from broken bones and small abrasions, to fevers and headaches. No matter is too small, and no patient is turned away. Even if your child does not need treatment, you’ll leave our emergency department with reassurance and education.

Q. What is so different about CHOC’s emergency department? Why do kids need a special place?

Dr. Pierog: It is the only emergency department in Orange County that has been designed, equipped and staffed with an all-pediatric focus. Children are not miniature adults, and it’s not simply a matter of ordering smaller blood pressure cuffs. Children and teens are physiologically different than adults. Our pediatric physicians, nurses and staff members know how to treat their unique medical needs.

We also offer services you won’t find at regular hospitals, like child life specialists. These trained child development professionals are experts at providing comfort to patients and families. They can help explain procedures or ailments in a way that is easy for children – and their parents — to understand. They also provide distractions to help alleviate pain, minimize anxiety or pass the time.

Q. Can I stay with my child?

Dr. Pierog: Absolutely. In fact, our exam rooms are larger to accommodate family members, including younger siblings and their strollers. A parent’s presence is the best coping mechanism around, and siblings also have a role in treatment and healing. Just keep in mind that a visit may take awhile, and small children may grow inpatient.

Q. Will the wait be long?

Dr. Pierog: Our emergency department is designed for fast triage, rapid diagnosis and speedy treatment to streamline each visit. Still, it is hard to estimate how long a visit will take. It will depend on the type and severity of your child’s ailment, as well as other patients visiting the ED that day. We usually see patients in order of their arrival, but children with serious illnesses or injuries may be seen first.

Q. I have an HMO: Do I need to get approval before coming to CHOC?

Dr. Pierog: CHOC does not require approval from a patient’s healthcare provider to offer care at the Julia and George Argyros Emergency Department. However, you should check with your provider for more details regarding coverage specifics.

What To Bring With You
• Diapers, formula and other baby supplies
• A list of any medications your child takes
• Referral paperwork, X-rays or lab results, if available
• Blanket, stuffed animal, favorite toy or other comfort item
• Cell phone and charger, or change for the pay phone.

Learn more about the Julia and George Argyros Emergency Department at CHOC Children’s Hospital.

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