by Bobby Anderson,
With growing labor and delivery volumes at Norman Regional Health System, the hospital’s pediatricians decided they needed some help.
That’s why earlier this year they formed a unique partnership that has helped patients, the pediatricians, nurses and virtually everyone involved in the continuum of pediatric care.
Pediatric hospitalists are pediatricians who work in hospitals providing care for children ages 0-18. Norman Regional has partnered with OU Children’s Physicians to add these specialized physicians to the health system.
These physicians excel in the care of children who are hospitalized and provide immediate and ongoing care 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The pediatric hospitalists will work with the children’s regular pediatrician or primary care doctor and update them on a child’s condition while in the hospital. Pediatric hospitalists will also see children who do not have a regular pediatrician or family doctor.
When a child leaves the hospital, a pediatric hospitalist will provide the appropriate physician an overview of the child’s hospital stay and work together on a plan for any future care.
This partnership allows Norman Regional to treat even more complex childhood illnesses and injuries.
Pediatric hospitalists also see children hospitalized for a variety of issues including chronic illnesses, flu, infectious illnesses, respiratory illness, and recovery from injuries or surgeries.
The program, which began in discussion in July 2014, seemed like a natural fit since hospitalists are now the norm for adult patients nationwide.
“It’s really nice because the hospitalists are able to come in four or five times during a shift,” charge nurse Sarah Camardo, RN. “Which as accessible as our pediatricians were … and they were wonderful, but because they were seeing patients in their office they were unable to come over and be here physically unless it was before or after office hours.”
“The hospitalists can come and stay at the bedside for 30 or 45 minutes to make sure the parents understand everything and answer questions.”
The move works on multiple fronts. For starters, pediatric patients who admit from the emergency room are able to see a hospitalist immediately. Parents are happy to have actual time to sit down with a physician when they have some of their most important questions.
“And (Norman’s pediatricians) don’t have to balance that office practice with spending time at the hospital,” said Director of Patient Care Services Susie Graves, R.N.
The hospitalists quickly initiated a call center so outlying offices, clinics and hospitals can call and connect with a hospitalist.
“It has incrementally grown our population allowing us to care for the children in our community instead of bypassing,” Nurse Manager Mari Newcomer, RN, said. “Having OU (Children’s Hospital) as our referral hospital it’s nice because we are now implementing standardized orders with OU that are moving out to EMSTAT so their ability to triage in the field where this child needs to go is also an improvement in care. It’s also an improvement in continuity of care if everybody is doing the same thing for our children.”
“It’s just been a huge asset. It’s that ability to at a moment’s notice get hold of them.”
For Camardo and her nurses the partnership has been a blessing.
“It helps put us at the bedside more just because you’re not making a phone call and sitting at the desk waiting for return calls,” Camardo said. “We’re able to get our question answered quickly and return to a parent and give a response quickly.”
With larger patient volumes across the metro this year forcing Children’s Hospital to often move to divert status, the relationship has also brought more patients south to Norman.
“We’ve seen an increase in the level of care they’ve allowed us to care for,” said Newcomer. “It’s been tremendously busy and when OU is on divert they triage to see what children we can take here. Now they’ve identified Norman as a hospital of choice for general pediatric admission.”
“We have children from Lawton and up near Tulsa. I think our exposure as a hospital has grown, too.”
With the partnership, Newcomer and Camardo have taken on the problem of pediatric asthma. Together, with the hospitalists a standardized pediatric asthma score was developed.
Driven by respiratory therapists, an order set has been developed for pediatric patients presenting at the ER to be immediately seen by RT.
That therapist is able to score the child and get care started immediately.
“It’s like a rapid asthma response,” Newcomer said.
With the help of the OU hospitalists, the scoring has been rolled out to EMSTAT as well as the pediatrician offices throughout the community.
“It’s one of the gifts they’ve brought,” Newcomer said