Little patient in the Pediatric ER Little patient in the Pediatric ER

Re-introducing New Mexico’s Only Pediatric ER

Did you know UNMH has the state’s only pediatric emergency room and it’s been around for 18 years?

Each year, about 80,000 patients come through UNM Hospital’s emergency room. With UNMH being the only Level I Trauma Center in the entire state, its ER sees a lot of action, but imagine if 23,000 more patients were added to that 80,000. That’s the number of children (all ages to 18 years) seen each year in the state’s only pediatric emergency room.

"Many people don’t realize that we have a 24/7 pediatric emergency room separate from the main ER," said Dr. Robert Sapien, chief of the division of pediatric medicine at UNM.

The pediatric ER has actually been around since 1994, and Sapien, who established pediatric emergency services at UNMH, has helped it evolve into the full service, 24/7 facility it is today.

Located on the first floor of the Barbara and Bill Richardson Pavilion, the pediatric ER is adjacent to the main ER with a separate, secured waiting room. The space was designed with children in mind, brightly colored with cartoon characters painted on each room’s door. There are 12 private treatment rooms equipped to handle pediatric emergency cases, and full service resuscitation and trauma rooms for the severely ill and level I pediatric trauma patients.

"The pediatric ER you see today is a far cry from the old days," said Sapien. "In the beginning, we would work anywhere we could find room."

Before the opening of the Barbara and Bill Richardson Pavilion in 2007, the pediatric emergency team had to find space in the older wing of UNMH. They had to be mobile at times, setting up in old observation areas or share clinical space with others.

Sapien looks back on the experience and credits the dedication of the nurses for getting through that time.

"They were incredible working with what we had available," said Sapien.

A Dedicated Nurse

Sara Daykin, RN is one of those dedicated nurses. She’s been with the pediatric ER for 14 years and remembers what it was like before moving into their permanent home.

"We would start at six in the evening and go until midnight," said Daykin. "We added more hours as we acquired more space, but we were always sharing space. It was really difficult at times."

Daykin said it was amazing once they moved into the new place. Their staff tripled in two months and they could accommodate a lot more patients.

"It was very exciting to see the difference," said Daykin. "We were so excited to have oxygen and suction in every room. That was one of the most exciting things to see because we were working in spaces that didn’t even have that."

Daykin’s dedication to the pediatric ER runs deeper than just being able to work in a state-of-the-art facility, though. Her dedication is to the children.

"I love the interaction with the kids," said Daykin. "I was just singing the SpongeBob SquarePants song with one of the patients. This is where I want to be. I can’t imagine being anywhere else."

For more information on UNM’s Pediatric ER and Emergency Department, visit

Categories: Patient Care

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