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Washington Hospital Pediatric Unit Keeps Young Patients Close to Home

February 18, 2014

Having an infant or young child admitted to the hospital can cause anxious moments for any parent. If the hospital is far away, resulting in a long commute to and from the hospital, the parents' anxiety is compounded,  especially if there are other children at home to care for or jobs that don't allow the parents or other primary caregivers to take much time off from work.

Unlike some hospitals in the East Bay that have decided to close their pediatric units, Washington Hospital has a strong commitment to providing pediatric care for children living in the local area. In October 2013, the hospital moved its Pediatric Unit from the 3rd floor to the 2nd floor, adjacent to the Birthing Center and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), to further enhance coordination and continuity of care.

"From a logistics standpoint, it just made sense to have the Pediatric Unit closer to the Birthing Center and Special Care Nursery," says Dr. Lyn Dos Santos, Medical Director of the Pediatric Hospitalist Program at Washington Hospital. "In the new Pediatric Unit, we provide care for children age 13 and under, while care for older children is provided on other floors. With six pediatric hospitalists on staff, we are able to provide coverage for our pediatric patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

The pediatric hospitalists at Washington Hospital are all board-certified pediatricians. In addition to providing examinations and care for newborns in the Birthing Center and Special Care Nursery (which is a Level 2 Intermediate Nursery), young children in the Pediatric Unit and older children on other floors, the hospitalists also see children who are brought in to the hospital's Emergency Room.

Additionally, the hospitalists' expertise and round-the-clock care has enabled Washington Hospital to provide local care, close to home, for many patients who might otherwise have to be transferred to a children's hospital farther away.

"Our patients' parents appreciate being close to home so they can manage the rest of their lives and take care of their other children," says Carolyn Crosby, RN, a Staff Nurse II on the day shift in the Pediatric Unit at Washington Hospital. "We try to keep their world as 'normal' as possible. Plus, we believe in family-centered care, allowing open visitation for parents or other primary caregivers at any time of day to accommodate those who don't work a typical 9-to-5 job. Space permitting, we allow both parents to stay overnight if they want. We also allow healthy siblings of all ages to visit their brother or sister in the hospital. This type of family-centered care has been shown to improve the patient and family hospital experience."

The pediatric nurses at Washington Hospital not only take care of the pediatric patients' medical needs, but also the emotional needs of the patients and their families.

"We support and nurture the parents and siblings to alleviate their fears and let them know we are dedicated to the care of their babies and children," says nurse Crosby. "We encourage parents to be actively involved in their children's care at the hospital so they will know how to care for them at home once they are discharged. No matter the reason for the patient's admission, families tend to have similar concerns and questions. They all require assurance. I am the parents' ally, willing to teach them what they need or want to learn."

The hospitalists and nurses in the Pediatric Unit coordinate patients' care closely with the families' regular pediatricians and with various specialists, including specialists such as a pediatric cardiologist who performs echocardiograms and other services, and surgeons who perform routine surgeries such as appendectomies.

"We see a wide range of conditions in our patients," says Dr. Dos Santos. "In addition to screening all newborns in the Birthing Center for hearing, metabolic, blood-related and endocrine disorders as required by the state of California, our hospitalists also screen every newborn for jaundice at the same time. On our pediatric floor, the most common conditions we admit include serious asthma episodes, bronchitis, pneumonia, skin infections such as MRSA, gastrointestinal problems and urinary tract infections."

To learn more about the Washington Hospital Pediatric Unit, visit www.whhs.com/pediatrics/.

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