When a parent takes their child into an Arkansas Children’s Primary Care clinic for anything from fever and congestion to an upset stomach, they get more comprehensive care than a typical primary care setting. 

“The fact that we are part of the Arkansas Children’s network is a big bonus for our patients. Chronically ill children receive care from subspecialties here at Arkansas Children’s. We’re able to see notes from their specialists and give comprehensive care to all our patients,” said Jacquelyn Pena, M.D., a pediatrician at Arkansas Children’s General Pediatric Care Clinic (GPC) in Little Rock and an associate professor in the department of pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). “We have all the resources from the hospital. So, even if a child has no medical history, we can easily grab labs or take X-rays in the clinic. They do not have to go to any other facility to do that. We do have the expertise of all the other specialties, so even though they may not be a chronic care patient, if anything does pop up and we have a question for infectious disease or other specialty physicians, we can give them a quick call and help the patient in what they need.”   

What is a sick visit? 

Arkansas Children’s provides consistent care across our six state-wide primary care clinics for sick and well visits, including Little Rock, Pine Bluff, Springdale and Rogers.  

The ACH After-Hours Clinic has evening and weekend appointments available.   

Pena completed three years of pediatric residency at ACH and UAMS and became a full-time pediatrician at GPC in August.   
“I really enjoy seeing the patients as they get older, watching them grow and meet all their milestones,” Pena said. “As a pediatrician, I feel like you can make a lot of impact on a patient’s life by setting good foundations when they’re younger to carry them through as they get older.”   

Pena and pediatricians across Arkansas Children’s Primary Care have openings for sick visits. Sick visits are appointments for new symptoms in a patient, typically those developed within the week.  

According to data from Arkansas Children’s Primary Care clinics in central Arkansas, top illnesses treated in sick visits from Sept. 1 through Dec. 8 include:   

  • Upper respiratory infection  
  • Sore throat   
  • Fever   
  • Exposure to COVID-19  
  • Viral infection   
  • Cough   
  • Nasal congestion   
  • Strep throat   
  • Vomiting   
  • Ear infection  
“We’re seeing a lot of upper respiratory infections, which can be secondary too. We’re seeing RSV go around a lot. We had a lot of gastrointestinal bugs going around the schools. So just a lot of viral illness, with RSV being one of the top ones we’re seeing right now,” Pena said.   

When should I bring my child in for an appointment? 

Parents should take their child to a primary care provider before an illness worsens. Pena said every child is different, but if they have a persistent fever for three to five days, they’re not drinking liquids as much as usual or they’re having slight trouble breathing, parents should make an appointment.   

“It’s important to get into primary care even if they feel like their child’s a little off and just want them to be seen so we can intervene before they get really bad. Let’s say they’re vomiting a lot; there’s something we can give them to help with that, so they don’t get to the point where they’re dehydrated,” Pena said. “If they come in during the first couple of days with a fever, we can double check to ensure nothing’s developed into ear infections or anything like that. We can give them antibiotics early on if needed before they’re not able to tolerate anything to drink, they become dehydrated, things like that.”   

Beyond treatment, parents can expect a high level of care for their child at every sick visit.   

“We have a lot of pediatricians who have several years of experience to help guide parents on what they can do at home to help with their child’s illness,” Pena said. “There’s a lot of knowledge in this clinic, as well as getting the resources they need.”   

How Do I Schedule My Child’s Sick Visit?    

If a child is a primary care patient at GPC, parents can securely schedule their sick appointment online via MyChart. If they are not an established patient with a MyChart account, parents can call 501-364-1202 or fill out an online form to schedule a clinic appointment. Sick visits can be scheduled for the same day, whether your child is already a patient, is a one-time sick visit patient on private medical insurance or if you want to transfer their primary care provider to establish your child as a patient of Arkansas Children’s Primary Care. Children insured by Medicaid or ARKids First can call 1-800-275-1131 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday for assistance from a person to update a primary care provider. To change it via automated assistance, call 1-800-805-1512. It can also be updated online.  

Appointments are available at the GPC starting at 8 a.m., with the last appointment scheduled at 4:15 p.m.  

Pena explained that Arkansas Children’s Primary Care has access to all specialists and hospital resources. In central Arkansas, with emergency departments at ACH and ACNW in Springdale, there’s no need to “ever transport the patient anywhere,” she said. Instead, they provide full treatment options in one place with the highest level of compassion for each patient.   

“Everyone takes every patient to heart. Nothing is taken lightly here. I am probably the youngest physician regarding training, but my other colleagues have several years of experience. We’re talking a combination of over 100 years of training and experience,” Pena said. “That’s a nice thing to have in the clinic because if one physician is a little unsure, we have a full group to pull from and ask, ‘What do you think?’” 

Click here for more information regarding sick visits at the General Pediatric Clinic or other primary care clinics.

Does your child need the Arkansas Children’s After-Hours Clinic or Emergency Department? Learn more about what each one offers.  



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