Penn State Children’s Hospital Nears Completion on $148 Million Expansion

By Michele Hollow
Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Prior to 2013, Penn State Children’s Hospital’s patients and families shared space with the adult hospital on the campus of Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. A three-story addition to the standalone Children’s Hospital that opened in 2013 — slated to be complete in November 2020 — will bring all children’s services into the Penn State Children’s Hospital, including a larger neonatal intensive care unit as well as the Labor and Delivery unit and postpartum patient rooms for women.

Penn State Children’s Hospital, located between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the nation’s best children’s hospitals in multiple specialties. Thanks to its dedicated physicians and staff, state-of-the-art facilities, and world-class research, the Children’s Hospital has garnered the reputation as “the region’s children’s hospital.”

However, that reputation for superior care and innovation meant that the already-five-story-tall Penn State Children’s Hospital frequently operated at or near capacity. To provide more space in which to treat children, babies and mothers, the hospital broke ground in 2018 on a 126,000-square-foot expansion.

“Consistency and thought went into how everything is laid out,” says Jaimey M. Pauli, MD, FACOG, Associate Professor, Co-Director of the hospital’s Perinatal Program, Medical Director of Labor and Delivery, and Chief of Maternal-Fetal Medicine in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Penn State College of Medicine. “With everything under one roof, we’ll be able to better provide coordinated care.”

“We will have the additional space needed for all of the patients in central Pennsylvania who are seeking our care. It will help us ensure no child has to be turned away.”
— Sarah M. Iriana, MD, Interim Chair of the Department of Pediatrics and Physician-in-Chief at Penn State Children’s Hospital

Better for Babies and Mothers

In addition to the Children’s Hospital housing a new Pediatric Acute Care Unit and a new Women and Babies Center, the sixth floor will host new mothers in postpartum recovery. The seventh floor will be home to Labor and Delivery and include triage, postpartum and antepartum, as well as a second well-baby nursery, while the eighth floor will contain the expanded Level IV NICU. The close proximity of these services means providers can collaborate more efficiently.

“The proximity of the NICU to Labor and Delivery rooms also provides our patients quick and easy access to their babies for feeding and care, and to the care teams for questions and other interaction,” says Richard S. Legro, MD, FACOG, Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Penn State College of Medicine. “The strategic placement of these distinct services facilitates collaboration designed to improve care for mother and baby with multidisciplinary teamwork to care for our mother-baby dyads.”

The number of available Labor and Delivery rooms will increase from five to nine, and an additional four triage rooms, two procedure rooms and three preoperative/postoperative bays for scheduled c-sections and other surgical procedures will be available.

The hospital will feature 18 postpartum/antepartum rooms on the seventh floor and 18 postpartum rooms on the sixth floor that all have electronic fetal monitoring access and alongside labor and delivery services. Six of the rooms are part of a dedicated antepartum section, which will include an ultrasound room and an antepartum lounge for use by patients who may need to remain hospitalized due to pregnancy complications.

Rooms will also be bigger and more modern. For new parents with long hospital stays, lounge areas have a refrigerator, washer and dryer, and large windows to let sunlight in.

“It gives a sense of home when patients have to be here for a long time,” Dr. Pauli says. “The design is centered around the patient. It makes the experience as positive as possible.”

One of the labor and delivery rooms will be used to accommodate families and providers in cases where the baby is not expected to survive long after birth. It gives families much-needed privacy during a difficult time.

“We utilize our pediatric palliative care services and develop a compassionate birth plan that takes into account the family’s values and desires for how they want to spend these precious minutes with their child,” Dr. Legro says. “We help them make memories and provide emotional support in these difficult situations.”

Serving More Patients

The sixth-floor Pediatric Acute Care Unit will have 18 beds. The proximity of the Women and Babies Center with the NICU and other peds specialties serves to improve care for this patient population.

“There are program coordinators who help our mothers navigate a system, which may include numbers of medical and surgical specialists along with neonatologists,” says Sarah M. Iriana, MD, Interim Chair of the Department of Pediatrics and Physician-in-Chief at Penn State Children’s Hospital. “The program is designed to ease anxieties and provide comfort in a time of high stress for families.”

Penn State Children’s Hospital will also house maternal-fetal medicine services to include fetal interventions.

“We provide mothers with consultations from providers within the pediatric group who will care for her baby after the baby is born,” Dr. Pauli says. “Multidisciplinary programs of this type improve outcomes for baby.”

Extra Special Care for Special Deliveries

On the southwest corridor of the eighth floor is the Small Baby Unit (SBU). Medical personnel in this unit will care for babies born at and before 28 weeks’ gestation (at least 12 weeks early). More than 50 doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, occupational and physical therapists, X-ray technologists, OB nurses, and developmentalists will be part of the unit.

Many of the specialists will create developed guidelines and protocols for the SBU. All babies will have consistent care, which according to Jeffrey R. Kaiser, MD, MA, FAAP, Chief of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine, the Kenneth V. and Eleanor M. Hatt Professor of Neonatal Medicine and Professor of Pediatrics and Obstetrics and Gynecology at Penn State College of Medicine, leads to “better survival with fewer long-term problems.”

The Level IV NICU

Penn State Children’s Hospital will be one of the first NICUs in the country to use a hybrid bed model — a mix of private rooms and three open bay rooms that can each accommodative six babies. The Level IV NICU is located on the eighth floor. The new NICU is larger and will be able to accommodate 14 more babies than in the previous NICU.

New technology also helps parents and other family members check in on their babies in the NICU. “i-View gives mothers remote access to view their baby in the NICU 24/7,” Dr. Iriana says. “They can keep an eye on their newborn even when they cannot be here.”