Children's Hospitals are special places

I recently wrote a column for one of the Carilion Clinic magazines. I have a slightly longer version that I would like to share with the readers of this blog, in case you didn't catch it. And I would love to see your comments at the end.

Children’s hospitals are special places.

They are full of sick children who smile while they get tested and treated for diseases. They have clowns and singing, video games and Bingo, crafts and Legos. Oh yes, and they have doctors and nurses and aides and techs, and Xrays and needles and medicines and IV’s and beds and wheelchairs and stretchers. But some of the beds look like race cars, and some of the wheel chairs resemble go carts.

Children’s hospitals are special places.

Every member of the staff is there because of their love and concern for children. They are trained to provide the very best care to kids and their parents. People who work in children’s hospitals have a special mission. And they have to perform "miracles" daily. They have to help children be children while they help parents be parents despite the child’s illness. Kids go to hospitals for mundane things like diarrhea, to life-changing and potentially devastating things like meningitis or cancer. Regardless of the illness, each child must be treated according to their age and their weight as well as their developmental stage and individual personality.

Children’s hospitals are special places.

Child life specialists are available to make the stay a bit less intimidating and frightening. These staff members can help children need less pain medication by teaching them guided imagery techniques, and can help siblings understand what is happening to their brother or sister, and WHY Mom and Dad spend so much time in the hospital. Child life specialists are integral to the successful work of a children’s hospital, but there is not a single insurance company who pays for the work that they do.


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Children’s hospitals are special places because they provide more services and care than is absolutely required to cure an illness or treat a physical injury. 

They understand the wide variety of needs that families face when confronted by having a child with a chronic disease, or one that might limit their lifespan. They face sad situations every day, but do so with a smile on their faces, for the children.

People sometimes ask me how I can manage the sadness that happens to us all when the illness or injury overcomes our abilities to “make it better.” But that is what is most special about a children’s hospital. Each one who work there knows  we are doing the best we can to support the child and the family throughout the illness and recovery periods. And when recovery is not possible, we know we have played a very important part in the life of a child who is special to a family. We have done whatever we could to make an unthinkable outcome into what will become a positive memory for a loving family. Of healthcare providers who felt something, who held their hand, who cried a little too. And who laughed, and loved their patients with all their hearts.

And that’s what makes children’s hospitals special.


Please feel free to add your own observations about children's hospitals (ours or any other) and the special ways in which they provide care to our most vulnerable patients and their families. Comment on the staff, or any other aspect that you would like. And thanks for visiting!

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About Dr. Ackerman

Alice Ackerman, MD, MBA, FAAP, FCCM is the Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Carilion Clinic and Professor and Founding Chair of Pediatrics at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. Dr. Ackerman is recognized nationally as an expert in pediatric critical care.

She has been at Carilion Clinic since June of 2007. Her primary goals are to enhance the health care of children in the Roanoke Valley and Southwest Virginia, and is actively working to do this both as physician in chief of the children's hospital, as well as through involvement with many state-wide initiatives.

Close to home links

Carilion Clinic Children’s Hospital
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The AAP website for parents
Just the Vax
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Parents Who Protect
Roanoke Times Medical blog
Running a hospital blog


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