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October 16, 2007 > Keeping Watch Over a Hospital's Youngest Patients

Keeping Watch Over a Hospital's Youngest Patients

Children of the Community Benefit from Continuity of Care

There's no doubt about it. A trip to the hospital can be daunting for any adult, but when it's your own child needing care you want to know they're receiving the best possible - under the watchful eyes of someone who cares for them as much as you do.
In 2003, Washington Hospital began its Pediatric Hospitalist Program to provide the children of the Tri-City area with seamless care from specialists trained to diagnose and treat infants and children.
Pediatric hospitalists are board-certified pediatricians who work mainly in hospitals, caring for children in many different departments, including the Emergency Department, the Pediatric floor to provide continuity of care for hospitalized children, the Birthing Center and the Level II Special Care Nursery, which cares for premature newborns and those who need special care.
Under the medical direction of Dr. Lyn Dos Santos, Washington Hospital's six pediatric hospitalists provide 24-hour, seven-day-a-week coverage for pediatric patients. Because they are available at any time of the day, the hospitalists are able to bridge the gap for community pediatricians who may be unable to provide rigorous care in the hospital setting.
Time to care
"Most pediatricians in a busy office practice do not have the time to spend anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes a day for each of their hospitalized patients," says Washington Hospital pediatric hospitalist Dr. David Hoffman. "As hospitalists, we are able to give every patient the attention they need when they are in the hospital because we are here around the clock."
This means that when an infant or child comes to Washington Hospital's ER, the pediatric hospitalists are available any time to provide expert opinions on their care. The hospitalists also provide coverage for the hospital's Well Baby program so that if a clinical problem develops or if a baby needs additional care, a hospitalist is available in the hospital at any hour to diagnose and treat problems or potentially prevent them altogether.
"Young patients who come to Washington Hospital have all the benefits of a children's hospital without having to be far away from home," says Hoffman. "I think the hospitalist program provides a really critical component of care with the main advantage being that it's great for the patients."
Commitment to the needs of a diverse community
Because of the Tri-City area's diverse population, Dr. Hoffman says the pediatric hospitalists see many different patients with a wide variety of medical issues, ranging from the common cold to rare tropical diseases not typically seen in other areas.
"Our ER sees a lot of children, and we get some very interesting cases," he says.
Fortunately, the combined resources of the pediatric hospitalists, neonatalogists and other physician sub-specialists make it possible for us to keep sicker patients at Washington and provide stabilization for others who require further sub-speciality evaluation, according to Hoffman.
Additionally, the hospitalists' level of expertise and round-the-clock care has enabled the hospital to treat many patients locally who might have before been transferred to a children's hospital farther away.
"When a child is hospitalized, it can be very difficult for families to continue to maintain their duties at home as well as provide the comfort needed to their hospitalized child. This is great for the families because they can be close to home," Hoffman points out. "Being only 10 minutes away from home instead of 30 to 40 minutes from home makes it a lot easier."
"Most local families delivered their baby here and had a good experience," Hoffman adds. "They feel comfortable here. The people in this community can feel proud that the hospital treats all patients with the same level of care no matter what their situation."
A continuity of care
The pediatric hospitalist program at Washington Hospital began in 2003 and has resulted numerous improvements in care for young patients, according to Hoffman, who has been with the program since its inception.
From the beginning, the hospitalists forged close working relationships with pediatricians in the community, ensuring a continuity of care that Dr. Hoffman says is essential to better outcomes and a sense of comfort for patients and their parents when they are receiving care in the hospital.
"Continuity of care is absolutely important," he says. "Things fall through the cracks if there isn't good communication. We really rely on knowing patients' pediatricians well and communicating with them regularly. At Washington, all of the pediatricians in the community really collaborate with us and it's been a very easy and wonderful process because we communicate so well."
A strong network of caregivers
Hoffman attributes the pediatric hospitalist program's growing success in part to the support from nursing staff and Washington Hospital's administration.
The hospitalists also have a strong working relationship with the neonatalogists - physicians who have additional training in the care of newborn and pre-term babies - at the Level II Special Care Nursery on Washington Hospital's campus, and full access to the resources and knowledge base of practitioners at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.
Dr. Hoffman says he credits Washington Hospital's leadership with the foresight to provide a growing number of vital resources to the children and families of the Tri-City area community.
"I'm grateful that the hospital is really committed to a noble mission," he says. "They take it seriously that this is a district hospital and they are committed to providing the highest level of care to everyone in the community."
And who could be a more important part of the community than its children?
Take a look inside your community hospital
To learn more about the services and programs at Washington Hospital, visit Washington Hospital's newly redesigned Web site at and click on "Services & Programs."

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