Phoenix Children’s Hospital will be opening its expanded and upgraded Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit in July, doubling the hospital’s capacity for heart patients and adding technological advances to make cardiovascular treatment easier and more efficient.
Dubbed the CVICU, the brightly-colored new wing of Phoenix Children’s Hospital (PCH) is empty at the moment, but it will soon be packed with young heart patients.
“The cardiac intensive care unit here at Phoenix Children’s Hospital has become quite busy, and we operate every day at nearly capacity,” said Dr. Joshua D. Koch, pediatric specialist and division chief of the CVICU. “There’s been a real need for expansion for some time now.”
Koch said the new unit — which features 48 total beds, doubling the former 24-bed unit — was designed using input from Heart Center clinicians as well as patients’ families, who participated in the Phoenix Children’s Heart Family Advisory Board. PCH used the advisory board’s recommendations to tailor its new CVICU rooms to patients’ various needs.
The improvements should make work easier for providers: additional monitors give physicians a better view of patient vitals; new surgical lighting allows each room to be quickly converted into an operating room; and patient lifts allow hospital staff to move larger patients in a way that is safer for both patient and provider.
Beyond increasing surgical capabilities in patient rooms, the CVICU will serve as an integrated, centralized hub for staff, according to a press release from PCH. The expansion also includes private areas for patient families and privacy curtains in every hospital room, so families and patients can interact without interruption.
“We’re very excited about opening this new, state-of-the-art wing to the cardiac ICU,” Koch said. “We’re going to expand not only our ability to take more patients, but also we’ve improved the technology and some of the efficiencies of what we do, as well as taken into account families’ and patients’ opinions about how we could better build the unit.”
PCH provides what is called family-centered care, making sure parents are actively involved with their child’s diagnosis, treatment and recovery process.
Doctors have a responsibility to listen to patients’ families, because parents “know their children very, very well,” Koch said. When health care providers at PCH discuss a patient’s plan of care, the parents, siblings and patient — if they are able to participate — play a “really valuable” role in deciding the best course of action, he said.
“We take into account [the family’s] thoughts on their care,” he said. “We really rely on them sometimes, when a child has a particularly complex medical history that’s happened over a long period of time. Families can oftentimes be our best source of information for remembering what worked well for a patient and what didn’t work well.”
Dr. Wayne J. Franklin, cardiologist and co-director of the Heart Center at PCH, said the new CVICU is important because it will provide much-needed resources and care options for the growing number of cardiac patients at the hospital.
“Phoenix Children’s is expanding,” Franklin said. “We’re seeing more patients, we’re seeing sicker patients, and we’re seeing a lot more cardiac patients, and so we need more space to treat them. We’re seeing them at earlier stages in life; we’re seeing them at later stages in life.”
There has been a “big push” to have standalone children’s hospitals nationwide that can take care of the most vulnerable child patients, and the new CVICU is a response to that, Franklin said.
Koch said PCH’s goal is to expand its patient population: “As children with congenital heart disease grow up into adults with congenital heart disease, we try to plan and think forward about that.”
Koch and Franklin are relatively new to Phoenix — Franklin started at PCH in September, and Koch has been there about a year — but both said they were impressed by the amount of support PCH receives from the community and local philanthropy.
“Phoenix is really getting behind this hospital in a way that shows that they care about the children of Phoenix and Maricopa County, and, really, of Arizona and the Southwest,” Koch said. “We are the premier center to get congenital heart surgery performed in the Southwest.”
Franklin said the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Foundation, the hospital’s nonprofit fundraising arm, has partnered with charities and corporations in the Valley, including groups like the Thunderbirds Charities and the Scottsdale Active 20-30 Club, to form a community-based coalition to raise money for the new CVICU.
“Phoenix Children’s Hospital has really made an effort to find several pillars and several specialties to really support and go after,” Franklin said. “Fortunately for us, cardiology and Heart Center is one.”
Earlier this year, the heart surgery program at Phoenix Children’s Hospital received the top rating of three stars from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons for the sixth year in a row.
There are other centers of excellence at PCH, too, including neuroscience and cancer research, Franklin said.
“There’s a lot of really good work going on here in Phoenix Children’s right now,” he said.
Franklin said he comes to work every day “energized and invigorated” to work with his colleagues and help patients.
“It’s just been an honor and a pleasure to work here, and I hope that we can continue to raise the bar for cardiac and medical care in Phoenix,” he said.