St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children: Bernadette Mangan, CEO

by HCE Exchange on March 25, 2011

What makes a hospital a leader in pediatric care? A look around St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia reveals a staff passionate about children, an environment structured around supporting and educating children while providing state-of-the-art care, and customized treatment that focuses on the whole family, not just the child patient. Understanding that pediatric healthcare is different from adult healthcare is the foundation of St. Christopher’s excellence, but it is only the beginning.

The Foundations of St. Christopher

by David Winterstein

What makes a hospital a leader in pediatric care? A look around St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia reveals a staff passionate about children, an environment structured around supporting and educating children while providing state-of-the-art care, and customized treatment that focuses on the whole family, not just the child patient. Understanding that pediatric healthcare is different from adult healthcare is the foundation of St. Christopher’s excellence, but it is only the beginning.

The Foundations of St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children

For over 130 years, St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children has been a fixture in Philadelphia healthcare. Its history includes the late Waldo Emerson, author of the leading textbook on pediatrics, who served as medical director. Like Emerson, who also taught at the Temple University School of Medicine, St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children continues to emphasize its research and teaching links with both Temple and the Drexel University School of Medicine as well. Chief Executive Officer Bernadette Mangan noted that this link to medical research and teaching is essential “to finding new ways to treat children.” Because it is such a specialized field, the Hospital also sponsors fellowships in pediatric emergency medicine.

It would be a mistake to focus only on teaching and research activities at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. CEO Mangan stated that, “it is the people who make the hospital work.” From physicians specialized specifically in pediatrics or its subspecialties, to nursing and support staff, St. Christopher’s Hospital personnel are all “passionate about children, and willing to give back to them” in Mangan’s words.

St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children is also growing to better serve the community as well. In addition to its teaching connections to Temple University, Mangan and her staff are now affiliated with Temple University Health System (TUHS), having taken on TUHS pediatric inpatient services under a long-term agreement signed in Fall 2007.

Providing Exceptional Care for Children and their Families

Thanks to its research and teaching affiliations, Mangan and the staff at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children are constantly learning and implementing new and innovative treatment technologies. They operate one of very few pediatric burn centers in the US, and they have put a major emphasis on advanced tertiary services such as transplants, especially bone marrow, kidney transplants. To meet the high demand for these specialized services, St. Christopher’s is expanding its Emergency Room facilities (which currently serve 55,000+ patients annually) and its NICU, as well as adding 2 Operating Rooms, 12 additional post-operative recovery beds, and 18 medical-surgical beds by the end of July 2008. St. Christopher’s is also planning a whole new medical office building to provide space for its physicians to deliver ambulatory outpatient services.

Along with its advanced technological resources, St Christopher’s also focuses on building a child-friendly, and child-supportive environment to aid the treatment process. This is a major part of the staff’s commitment to children. Mangan and her staff work constantly to improve teamwork in all areas, not only to provide better care, but also to demonstrate to the young patients that they are not alone, they are part of a whole atmosphere of healing. As Mangan said, “At St. Christopher’s, we want children to experience care and an environment that is different, so that they are not frightened, but can learn from their experience in the hospital.”

Teamwork even extends to the patient’s family as well. Because children are responsive to and learn from their environment, the St. Christopher’s staff focus on family-centered treatment plans that are customized to each patient. This involves not only building an environment conducive to care, but also providing treatment that is appropriate to the patient and to the social structure supporting him or her. The murals and interactive activities in the waiting rooms are designed to help foster this environment, and reinforce a positive structure for patients. A continuous commitment to upgrades and improvements to St. Christopher’s facilities has generated phenomenal responses. Mangan noted, “When children say they don’t want to leave, or they want to come back, you know you’re doing something right.”

Challenges of Advanced Pediatric Care

St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children faces many of the same challenges that confront the entire healthcare industry, such as growing discrepancies between costs and reimbursements (particularly since about 80% of St. Christopher’s patients are covered by Medicaid) as well as recruitment and retention of high quality medical staff. Recruitment and retention are doubly important for St. Christopher’s since pediatric medicine is so highly specialized, and the demand is equally great. For this reason, Mangan values her hospital’s affiliations with not one, but two medical schools (Temple and Drexel). These affiliations are a critical part of her strategies for developing personnel to plan for and meet future needs.

Patient safety is even more important in pediatrics since St. Christopher’s young patients are often more fragile than adult patients. Mangan and her staff have ongoing measures related to burn prevention and other safety issues that are not limited to the hospital, but involve community outreach as well. These measures are part of St. Christopher’s commitment to the community and to building a supportive environment, not just for treatment of children, but for prevention as well.

In the hospital, Mangan has made fighting infections a key issue. The NICU has reduced its ventilator-associated pneumonia infection rate to zero, a phenomenal achievement that speaks to Mangan’s team approach. In her words, “The key is identifying problems and using teamwork to resolve them.”

Continuing to Create a Pediatric Hospital that Feels Different

As Mangan and St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children continue to grow and develop their comprehensive approach to community pediatric healthcare, they are committed to continually improving their already exceptional services. Mangan summed up her staff, saying that, “Many of them have been here as long as 25 to 30 years, but even those who are new to St. Christopher’s comment on the feeling. You can feel the difference when you walk in.” The collegiality and teamwork are what make Mangan excited to work for St. Christopher’s, and they are also what make customized care, appropriate to each patient and their family, possible at a large teaching and research hospital. Mangan noted, “We are always looking for even better outcomes.”

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Sonia Lebron January 6, 2011 at 8:44 am

St. Christopher’s Hospital is the worse place for any child to receive treatment!!! The nurses are rude and lack very little knowledge, the DR’s are full of themselves and do not take responsiblity for their mistakes… In addition, you have director’s of programs that are nasty.., If you want your child to die, this is the place for them. This is worse facillity for children that I have seen…

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