Short wait times, highly trained staff, and a family-friendly atmosphere earned E.R.s at these children's hospitals the top of Parents' ranking.
Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio

1. The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Families feel comfortable here. The hospital employs eight Child Life therapists exclusively for the emergency department. Their job: to soothe, comfort, and distract young patients during scary procedures. The hospital has also implemented new protocols -- including a "Fast Track" section for patients who aren't as seriously ill -- to help reduce wait time.

2. Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

Despite being one of the busiest hospital emergency departments in the country (with 92,000 visits in 2012), wait times are relatively short -- averaging around half an hour. The hospital is also a leader in pediatric emergency research and is currently working on a study to reduce the need for a CT scan for kids with mild head injuries.

3. Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

More than 4,000 children with violence-related injuries have been treated in the Emergency Department/Trauma Center at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. That's why the hospital established Project Ujima, a network of services to assist with physical, social, and emotional recovery. The hospital also partners with other agencies to offer a day camp focused on youth development, leadership, and self-esteem.

4. Boston Children's Hospital

To reduce wait time for families, the hospital's emergency department is piloting a new communications system called BEAPPER, which sends staff Twitter-like alerts when beds become available, when orders have been placed, and when lab results are back. The staff also works on emergency-related research that has immediate, practical applications for families, including a recent study on the hazards of glass tables and ornaments.

5. Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio

The first thing children spot when entering the hospital's new emergency department: a 1,400-gallon aquarium with more than 100 colorful fish. Then parents can take kids to the section that is best suited to their mood -- an active zone or a quiet area. The hospital is also a leader in promoting the rights of families to be allowed to stay with their child during invasive procedures and resuscitative situations.

6. Children's Hospital of Michigan, Detroit

Despite seeing a large number of patients (more than 90,000 in 2011), average wait times in the emergency department are under 25 minutes -- and are far less for the most serious cases. About one in five patients take advantage of the hospital's "fast-track" area.

7. Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC

The hospital is conducting more than 50 studies in the emergency department, including the safety and effectiveness of procedural sedation and the management of brain injury.

8. Texas Children's Houston Hospital

Over the past two years, the hospital's emergency care team has created a new protocol that includes guidelines to improve earlier recognition and more effective treatment of sepsis, a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body reacts to a severe infection due to harmful bacteria or other germs. It has also offered families a chance to take a survey at the hospital to provide more feedback on their E.R. experience, including the doctors' communication skills.

9. Children's Hospital Colorado, Aurora

The Emergency Department staff is forward-thinking in pain management, trying to create a more "ouchless" environment for kids. The hospital also pioneered parameters for the home treatment of bronchiolitis (a common illness of the respiratory tract), rather than the typical hospital stay.

10. Children's National Medical Center, Washington, D.C.

Optimizing CT scans for patients with a head injury is among the hospital's 60-plus studies related to emergency care. Coming soon: Through an app, families will be able to access current emergency-department waiting times.

Originally published in the March 2013 issue of Parents magazine.

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