by Cara O'Brien
If a tragic accident happened near Swedish Medical Center, until February, children needing intensive care could not be brought to that hospital.
They would have to be brought elsewhere, sometimes separating them from parents or others who had been involved in the accident.
“We found a need in the community,” says Stacy Kreil, director of children’s services for Swedish Medical Center. “It was very upsetting for parents to have to drive so far.”
The closest Pediatric Intensive Care Units were in Denver. Swedish offered other types of pediatric care, but not an Intensive Care Unit.
So as part of a major, ongoing, 5-year overhaul of the medical center, Swedish built a brand-new Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. The unit opened for patients in February this year.
“The piece of the puzzle that we were missing was a unit for intensive care,” Kreil says.
The Pediatric Intensive Care Unit - or PICU, pronounced pick-you - is a six-bed unit made up of all private rooms. The rooms are specially designed to provide trauma care to children, and to allow parents to stay with their children around the clock.
The hospital turned what, Kreil believes used to be a labor and delivery ward, into a quiet space with bold, earthy colors and comfortable couches and lounges throughout for parents and visitors. The unit is closed completely to the public, and it offers a refrigerator and coffee for families, a separate lounge with a television, tables and chairs and sleeping chairs and couches in each of the private rooms.
The unit also has bunk rooms with showers and other amenities for families staying near their child during this traumatic time.
“Families do help people heal,” Kreil says. “There is nothing better than having family members in a room and making a child or family member smile.”
And the medical center has worked hard to give families the space they need to spend that quality time with their child, and with each other, to recuperate, to grieve or to celebrate. It’s a model being used increasingly across the country, in a departure from old models of open Intensive Care Units without separate spaces for each patient or their families.
Once a child has recovered enough to leave the new PICU, they will be moved to other wards at Swedish Medical Center. On its first day open, the Swedish PICU had four patients, an unexpected number that proved the need in the community to the staff in the hospital.
The staff at the Swedish PICU was ready. The average staff member of the PICU has 10 years experience with children and pediatric trauma.
This February Swedish also added a new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to Swedish Medical Center. Swedish has had a Neonatal intensive care unit of some kind since 1978, but wanted to update its facility for this type of care, switching over to the private-room, family-centric model. Many of the staff members in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit have 20 years or more of experience in this type of care.
“Families need to be involved in the care of their infant,” Kreil says. “It’s bringing the family back together in kind of a stressful time.”
“(It’s all) just to improve the quality of care that we’re offering our patients,” says Andrea Reinig, the marketing and public affairs manager for Swedish Medical Center.
The new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit - or NICU, pronounced nick-you - has 24 private rooms, some set up specifically for twins and triplets, who often need this type of intensive care. The rooms are spacious and offer all the technology needed to handle the care of a high-need infant. These rooms, too, have sleeping couches and beds for families wanting to stay with their child throughout the day and night.
The new Swedish NICU has 35 employees, most of whom already worked in the old NICU. The new PICU has about 15 employees, about half of whom are new to Swedish. And this will likely be as big as the Swedish NICU gets. Kreil says that with ever-increasing quality of prenatal care, hospitals nationwide are seeing fewer and fewer premature babies. They are especially seeing fewer really early births, she says.
The PICU, on the other hand, could grow in future years, depending on the needs of the community. Kreil says it will be depend on the rest of the construction, Swedish has been adding wards and doing other renovations for a number of years. When that project is done, it could examine future growth.
For now, the staff is enjoying the new facility and the amenities it offers its patients, and the families forced to spend time there are utilizing the spaces designed to meet their needs.