How Pediatric Hospitals Provide the Specialized Care California’s Children Need

Appeared in:
Smart Business LA County

If you’ve ever been inside one, you know children’s hospitals are special, some say miraculous places, where everything is kid-sized and child-friendly, and even the most critically ill children have hope of becoming healthy once again.

Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach is one of the nation’s six largest children’s hospitals in patient admissions with a world-renowned neonatal intensive care unit for fragile newborns. In addition, its Women’s Pavilion is unique in medical history as a pioneer in perinatal medicine for high-risk pregnancies. As a result of these achievements, moms and families from throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties access Miller Children’s extraordinary services.

That is why Smart Business turned to its CEO Diana Hendel, Pharm.D., to learn more. Caring exclusively for kids, expectant moms and their newborns, Miller Children’s, just one of two children’s hospitals in Los Angeles County, extends its pediatric and family centered care in the community via satellite clinics, health centers and schools in multiple locations throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties.

What makes care of children unique?

The nation’s children’s hospitals treat kids that have the most complex and severe conditions. Teams of highly specialized pediatric specialists care for young patients with the most technologically advanced, compassionate, children’s-centered care available.

Children aren’t simply young adults. While they often share the same illnesses as adults, children are affected differently with unique medical needs and health issues.

Children need a hospital specializing in their unique needs with pediatric emergency and trauma services; neonatal intensive care; pediatric surgery; pediatric intensive care; children’s cancer, heart, orthopedics and blood disorder services; and outpatient specialty programs for managing chronic conditions.

As children grow and develop, their need for highly trained specialized health care increases as they transition to adulthood. What makes Miller Children’s unique is that it includes obstetrics care and is one of the nation’s best known and largest neonatal intensive care units, and the state’s only free-standing children’s hospital that’s part of a major health care system, thus ensuring continuity of care throughout a lifetime. Miller Children’s and its new ‘castle-like’ patient pavilion is on the same 54-acre campus as Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, which is one of the country’s most highly regarded hospitals.

Why are children’s hospitals so important?

Children’s hospitals are indispensable. They treat the vast majority of children with chronic conditions and congenital abnormalities, including 93 percent requiring cardiac surgery and 71 percent with cancer.

We take seriously our responsibility to ensure children and families receive the care and attention they require. Children’s hospitals, the top pediatric specialists and health care teams work to uncover complex intricacies of pediatric illnesses and pioneer new vaccines and treatments for common illnesses, chronic conditions and complex diseases.

How do they differ from adult facilities?

Children’s hospitals play several important roles: We are destinations for children who seek specialized pediatric care, and are a ‘safety net’ for uninsured or underinsured children. We are also an innovator in the primary ‘medical home’ concept that brings together more than 30 different physician specialists and scores of other clinicians to care for children with chronic or congenital conditions.

While community hospitals might treat some pediatric patients, free-standing children’s hospitals like Miller Children’s have board-certified pediatric physicians with the special training to care for children. They are joined by rehabilitation staff, pediatric trained nurses, social services professionals, nutritionists, educators and various other clinicians.

What services help kids adapt to their care?

For a child, hospitals can be frightening. Child Life specialists use medical play to explain tests and procedures and provide coping techniques to help reduce the stress of hospitalization as well as offer playrooms, art, music and pet therapy. This minimizes the negative impact associated with illness and injury while promoting growth and development using a family-centered approach to care.

Children’s hospitals are often the first stop on a long journey for families with children who have a chronic illness. Care teams understand the vital role of the parents and siblings in a child’s recovery or in managing chronic conditions. At Miller Children’s, family resource centers, parent education and a parent-to-parent mentor program ensure families know how to manage the condition and help them connect with others sharing similar experiences.

In what ways can employers help?

As an employer, you can get involved in the wellness of California’s nine million children. Join our campaign to help fight childhood obesity, which is now reaching epidemic proportions. Work with schools and youth organizations to promote exercise as well as healthy foods in cafeterias and vending machines. Miller Children’s Hospital and the other MemorialCare medical centers offer scores of family-centered wellness programs at the worksite and in the community to help your work force learn how to embrace healthier lifestyles for themselves and their families.

DR. Diana Hendel is CEO of Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach, Community Hospital Long Beach and Long Beach Memorial Medical Center.