Ask the Expert: Meet the Riley Emergency Department at IU Health North

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by IU Health.

Riley Emergency Department

Parents living on or near the Northside of Indianapolis now have an option to receive the most highly skilled emergency care close to home. At IU Health North Hospital, Riley Children’s Health doctors and nurses are available to provide emergency care for your child in a convenient location. Dr. Sean Thompson is the Medical Director of Emergency Medicine for Riley Children’s Health at IU Health North, and we spoke with him recently about expanded pediatric services that are now available on the Northside. 

Tell us a little bit about the expansion of pediatric services at IU Health North Hospital.

Starting July 1st, Riley emergency medicine physicians began providing care in the IU Health North Hospital emergency department. While IU Health North has always provided great emergency care in the past, this expansion elevates the standard of pediatric care. In this new model of care, parents have access to a Riley pediatric emergency medicine physician, a pediatric-trained nurse, a child life specialist, and a pediatric respiratory therapist during service hours. This expansion allows parents an additional access point to the nationally recognized, high-quality care provided by Riley Children’s Health. 

What can a parent expect should they need to take their child to receive pediatric emergency care at IU Health North Hospital?

Dr. Thompson says, “Parents can expect, for the vast majority of reasons they may go to the emergency department for, that they have access to the same level of care and expertise as our downtown hospital.” Specifically, there are rooms just for pediatric patients in the emergency department to help decrease wait and provide a supportive environment for families.

If and when a patient needs to be seen downtown, our team can stabilize, transfer and admit the patient to the right department at Riley Hospital for Children downtown.

How many pediatric doctors will be on staff in the emergency medicine department?

Each day, there will be one pediatric emergency doctor at the IU Health North location and in total, there are ten doctors that will rotate between Riley Hospital downtown and IU Health North. A pediatric nurse, a child life specialist, and a pediatric respiratory therapist will also be available to provide the best care for patients.

What days and hours is this service available? What if we need to bring a child in during off-hours?

Riley Emergency Medicine physicians are onsite from 2 pm to 11 pm seven days a week. According to Dr. Thompson, this is the most common time for pediatric visits to the emergency room. Since July 1st, 70% of pediatric visits have been cared for during this timeframe. If families need to bring their child to the emergency department during off-hours, they can still expect the same care and attention from a highly skilled staff cross-trained in pediatric protocols ready to provide care for your child. A Riley doctor is always available in the hospital 24/7 to help direct care, along with a pediatric nurse, a child life specialist, and a pediatric respiratory therapist.

Does this change anything for the downtown Riley location?

No, this expansion does not change anything for the downtown Riley location. Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health remains Indiana’s only Level I Pediatric Trauma Center available to care for the most highly complex emergencies and provide 24/7 subspecialty care.

When should a parent bring their child to the emergency department?

Always trust your gut. Dr. Thompson says if a parent perceives an emergency, that is the time to come. “There’s never a time when the staff at the emergency department would say, ‘You shouldn’t have come to the emergency department.’” He gives examples of pediatric emergencies that require a visit to the emergency department, such as big cuts that likely need stitches, broken bones, or respiratory illness issues. If you are ever on the fence on whether you should go to the emergency room or not, call your child’s primary care doctor.

What else should patients and their families know about visiting a Riley emergency department?

Patients and families can now view walk-in wait times and check-in online for both the IU Health North and Riley Hospital emergency departments. Visit to access this interactive tool. This new feature provides patients the following:

  • Allows parents to see wait times of both emergency rooms, giving parents the choice of which location works best for them
  • Offers families the convenience of choosing a time that meets their needs
  • Minimizes time in the waiting room by choosing a check-in time prior to arrival
  • Gives families some control over the healthcare experience

“We have been able to get patients into beds fairly quickly,” says Dr. Thompson of his work at IU Health North. But if they are getting really busy, you could benefit from scheduling a specific time if it is not a life or death situation. This will allow you to plan ahead.

Another important note is as you select the reason for a visit while checking in, certain reasons will be deemed an emergency, and you will be instructed to come in right away versus later. Communication is key. When you bring your child in, communicate with the staff on the reason for a visit to help them assess the situation as best as possible.

In addition, IU Health is taking thoughtful steps to make sure their spaces remain safe for everyone. A universal mask policy is in place requiring all team members to wear masks at every IU Health care facility. Patients are required to wear masks also, provided at no cost. Spaces and waiting rooms have been reconfigured to support social distancing, with visible displays of six-foot distances. The health system has also worked to significantly decrease the time patients spend in waiting rooms, and has enhanced disinfecting procedures so that everything remains thoroughly clean throughout the day.

What other pediatric services are offered at IU Health North Hospital?

The expansion of care in the emergency room by Riley emergency department providers is an addition to the longstanding commitment to the Northside of Indianapolis. Parents may not be aware of all the Riley services currently available on the IU Health North Hospital campus. This includes pediatric primary care and more than 20 different pediatric specialties who see patients for routine care. Additionally, surgeons in the field of general surgery, urology, orthopedics, and more, perform scheduled surgeries and procedures in the IU Health North operating room, supported by pediatric anesthesiologists.

In the event that a patient needs to stay overnight in the hospital, Riley doctors and nurses provide care at IU Health North Hospital 24/7. Common reasons for inpatient stays could include: respiratory illnesses such as bronchiolitis and pneumonia, dehydration, asthma, diabetes, care of infectious diseases, and seizures.

Dr. Thompson, a parent of four children who lives on the Northside, knows the importance of these services and is dedicated to delivering the Riley experience on the Northside to provide the best care possible.

About Sean Thompson, MD

About Dr. Sean Thompson, MD

Dr. Sean Thompson is the medical director of the Riley Emergency Department at IU Health North Hospital. He is responsible for providing high-quality care, coordinating services, and follow-up with families and pediatricians. His goal for the IU Health North Emergency Department is to foster exceptional, compassionate, and top-quality pediatric care that families have come to expect from Riley Children’s Health. Beyond work, Dr. Thompson is married and has four children. He loves spending time with his family, running, brewing coffee, and improving his bread baking skills.

Education, Professional Accreditation and Certification

Dr. Thompson earned his medical degree from the Indiana University School of Medicine and completed his residency in emergency medicine and pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine. He is also a member of the American Board of Emergency Medicine and American Board of Pediatrics.

IU Health Hospital

Indiana University Health

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Riley Emergency Department