Making Families Feel at Home

Bringing the world to Cincinnati Children's for transformative care

It’s hard to imagine what could be more frightening than having a seriously ill child.

But try uprooting the family and dropping them into a strange environment three states away or even in another country where few speak their language.

“Being away from home is like living in a box 24/7,” says a mother from Michigan, whose child has been a patient for a number of years. “It’s being away from family and friends. It’s isolation. The world goes on around you, but you’re stuck. Your world stands still.”

Her child is on a ventilator and requires IV medication for pain around the clock. The palliative care division of the hospital back home can’t care for her. She is too sick. If Mom needs a break, she sometimes takes a shuttle to a shopping venue or visits the massage therapists from Child Life and Integrative Care. She also likes to chit-chat and joke with the staff, who are like family to her.

Making the world better – one child at a time

Transforming the Patient Journey

Caring for patients outside our 25-county service area isn’t new. Nor are our efforts to ease their stay. From scheduling appointments with multiple specialists in a single day to providing tickets and transportation to a Reds game, staff members have worked hard to make families more comfortable.

What is new is the number of patients who travel to our medical center for treatment.

We have worked to formalize our approach to meeting the needs of out-of-area patients and families. Led by Molly Cain, administrative director; Christy White, MD, MAT, medical director; and Diane Herzog, MSN, MBA, RN, clinical director, this team focuses on building the infrastructure needed to better coordinate care.

“Families who travel have unique needs,” says Ms. Cain. “They can’t go home at night. Some have language barriers or special dietary requirements. They don’t know what resources are available, and they don’t have their usual support system.”

Caring for these families sometimes adds stress on frontline staff. It takes more time and energy to bridge the cultural divide, whether the family is from Russia or rural Pennsylvania. Logistical needs can compete with clinical needs for a caregiver’s attention.

Says Ms. Cain, “We hope to design a future state where frontline staff feel supported in handling these challenges.”

Donor Spotlight

Schott Foundation Family Resource Center allows families to step away, relax and recharge

Few things are scarier than having a child with a serious illness or injury. Fear, exhaustion, time away from other children and work all contribute to unimaginable stress and anxiety. That’s why Cincinnati Children’s created a homey space for families to step away, relax and recharge. And thanks to the generosity of the Marge and Charles J. Schott Foundation, the center will continue to provide families with respite and resources for years to come. The Family Resource Center at Cincinnati Children’s, now renamed in honor of the Schott Foundation, offers a space to relax, a business center to help families stay plugged in to life outside of the medical center, and caring staff to provide parents with information about their child’s condition and support finding additional resources.

Thanks to the generosity of donors, like the Schott Foundation, we can provide respite and resources for our families.

Proactive Planning to Change Outcomes

Dr. White aims to build that future by implementing better ways to coordinate care. “We’re looking at our intake process, at identifying which patients are the best fit for our programs and how to set goals and expectations for their stay,” she says. “There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to accept a patient from outside our service area. It’s important to have good communication during every phase and to have access to medical records that are complete and up to date. It takes a team to approach each case realistically and plan proactively.”

Ms. Herzog adds, “When families are traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to get here, there’s less room for error in planning their visit. You want to think of everything, because they need to go home.”

Good Experience for Every Patient

This isn’t just about bringing patients here. It’s also about taking our expertise to patients where they live. “We’re sharing knowledge with other health care organizations through affiliations and partnership programs,” says Ms. Cain. “We’re training residents and fellows who will take that knowledge back to their own countries.”

“It’s about taking Cincinnati Children’s to the world and bringing the world to Cincinnati Children’s,” adds Ms. Herzog.

Pretty exciting stuff. And totally at the heart of our vision and mission. Says Dr. White, “We have an opportunity to build on the hard work that people in many other areas have been doing.”

The bottom line is, we want to do the right thing for every patient, no matter where they come from, and give them a good experience.

Christy White, MD, MAT, medical director