Golisano Children’s Hospital Embraces Family-Centered Care

Nicolas Santiago with his family

Nicolas Santiago with his family

At Golisano Children’s Hospital, families are on the same team with doctors and nurses. It’s a philosophy of care that envelopes families, putting them into positions of influence within the hospital, taking their input seriously, and empowering them to care for their children.

“This is not just about being kind to patients and families,” said Carla LeVant, pediatric social worker and part of the team spearheading the hospital’s efforts toward providing family-centered care. “This philosophy puts the focus on the patient and family, and it requires the patient and family to be part of the team.”

“I didn’t know what a privilege it was to hold my head up and breathe until I had my son,” said Fina Santiago, mother of Nicolas, who has congenital fiber-type disproportion, a neurological non-degenerative muscular disorder. Santiago said that being in a hospital where families are part of the care team is essential to feeling less powerless.

Golisano Children’s Hospital began formal efforts toward family-centered care about five years ago, in part driven by parents and by a desire to improve accuracy. Families can participate in the daily rounds, providing much-appreciated expertise about their children. As a teaching hospital, this means a lot of people in the room, but it also means a lot of opportunities to gather input.

Parents are essential members of the care team, helping the team by ensuring that information is accurate and complete, providing insight into the patient’s history, and assisting providers as they incorporate patient/family preferences into the treatment plan, according to Michael S. Leonard, M.D., associate chief for Pediatric Hospital Medicine.

“Parents are the experts about their own children,” Leonard said. “In order for us to provide the best possible care, we need to all be on the same page.”

Kate Ostrander, R.N., a nurse and discharge coordinator, said that family participation is key, not only to the care team, but also to the child’s long-term success, especially when it comes time to go home.

“Everything goes smoother when parents are on the team and everyone is on the same page,” Ostrander said. “Families can go home sooner and with more confidence in caring for their child.”

In the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), staff started incorporating the family-centered care philosophy into practices several years ago. Changes have included allowing families to stay during rounding and participate in the conversation about their baby’s care.

“Ultimately, (family-centered care) will be good for the babies, for the parents and for the staff,” said Patrick Hopkins, N.P.

The hospital has made significant strides and the work continues, including finding ways to make the NICU entrance more welcoming and changing the signs to eliminate the word “visitor,” because parents are welcome in the hospital anytime and are not visitors to their own children.

“Family-centered care is a journey, not a destination,” Hopkins said.

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