“Caring for children takes additional training and skills,” Kayla Banks, PhD, RN, vice president of Women’s and Children’s Services said. “Medications and treatments are not one-size-fits-all so it’s important that we can offer these highly-trained nurses and providers to care for our children.”
With 12 available beds, nursing, respiratory staff and physicians can focus on the PICU located next to the regular pediatric area. It serves the most serious cases like those needing total breathing support, intense medications or organ dysfunction. Cardiology, endocrinology, neurology and surgery are among the services available to the youngest of patients.
While the pandemic changed the expectations of the types of cases in the first year, the need for the separate unit was never more evident.
David Chan, MD, associate chief medical officer for Pediatrics and Acute Care Services, said, “Because people are isolating, the number of children with the flu or RSV is way down. But with COVID-19, there was a rise in children who did come in to the PICU very sick with multi-inflammatory disease.”
The PICU provided a way to keep children safe in the new unit close to home for family members and at the same time, free up beds for adults, Chan said. “Being close to home is priceless for families,” he said. “The emotional burden of having a critically ill child can be very stressful.”
Chantel Ellis, director of Women’s and Children’s Services, said the PICU also saw children with diabetic ketoacidosis who needed help managing their blood sugars and insulin plus adolescent and preadolescent patients being treated in the unit for intentional, or unintentional, overdose of drugs, most being over-the-counter medications.
The PICU allows family to have accommodations so they can stay in the room with their child.
“By being near other pediatric beds, these children can receive coordinated and progressive care. When they start to recover and get better, they graduate to additional spaces within the unit but still see the same familiar faces and care team members,” Ellis said.
Serving as the region’s only dedicated PICU is a responsibility Carle takes seriously.
Having the PICU beds available improved the care for children and with pediatric-specific services available, thanks to a team of people who support families during their stay, including social workers and Child Life Specialists who help families cope with normalizing their hospital stay and coordinating their release home.