August 29, 2008

Pediatric cardiac ICU created

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Critical care nurse Holly Watkins, R.N., cares for patient Kennedy Tate in the newly created Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Pediatric cardiac ICU created

Pediatric patients who undergo cardiac surgery at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt now have an extra level of care during their recovery.

A dedicated Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit has been created, taking up one pod of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit on the fifth floor of Children's Hospital.

“We have a dedicated team of critical care physicians who staff the PCICU and work in collaboration with cardiology and cardiac surgery to care for this complex patient population,” said Mary Taylor, M.D., director of Pediatric Cardiac Critical Care.

“Focusing on the particular perioperative issues in this special group of patients will improve patient care and outcomes. Specialized cardiac nursing is essential in managing the minute-to-minute changes that occur.”

Directors of the Division of Pediatric Cardiology and Pediatric Cardiac Surgery say that the addition of the specialized unit is the final step in providing pediatric cardiac patients with the highest level of post-operative care, and aligns the program with the best in the nation.

The 12-bed unit is staffed with 14 pediatric nurses who are trained to provide specialized care for heart patients.

“The real purpose of this unit is to focus on children with congenital heart disease, to have all patients in one area taken care of by a cadre of nurses committed to cardiac patients,” said Scott Baldwin, M.D., chief of the Division of Pediatric Cardiology. “I see this as a major step forward in the building of Vanderbilt's Pediatric Heart Institute.

Before the unit was created, pediatric cardiology patients were taken to the PCCU or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit after surgery.

“The cardiac population is unique — they come directly from the operating room to the PCICU,” said Lisa Hacker, M.H.A., R.N., manager of the PCCU and PCICU. “They are a very specialized, fragile group of children.”

David Bichell, M.D., chief of the Division of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery, said the complicated nature of cardiac surgery requires everyone to work seamlessly as a team.

“You need all five elements to have good patient outcomes: cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, cardiac anesthesiologists, critical care specialists and cardiac nurses,” Bichell said. “Minutes matter. Safety and outcomes have been linked to everyone being on the same page.”

The nurses in the unit will receive continual training. In September, a core group of nurses will participate in an intensified cardiac education series led by Tanya Boswell, M.S.N., R.N.