By Guest Blogger Kristen A. Zeller, MD, Pediatric Surgery Brenner Children’s, Wake Forest Baptist Health
As a parent, sometimes the most important thing you can do for your child is be their advocate. If your child needs surgery, use your voice to speak up and ask these important questions.
Brenner Children’s has been verified as a Level I Children’s Surgery Center by the American College of Surgeons (ACS). Brenner is the only hospital in the region and one of only 28 in the country to receive this verification. What this means to you as a parent is that you can rely on the whole Brenner team caring for your child in and around the operating room to have the experience and equipment they need to provide the best care possible.
Parenting is hard work. Despite the countless books, blogs, and well-meaning people who offer their advice, for the most part we figure out our own ways to help our little humans make it to adulthood.
Parents face a multitude of anxious moments—sending children off to school for the first time, supporting them as they navigate the heartaches of relationships, helping them understand the death of a loved one, and caring for them through illness and injury. That last one is a doozy, especially when a child is facing a medical problem severe enough to warrant hospitalization or surgery. Not only do we face the uneasiness of having someone we love suffer, but on top of it we have to navigate a healthcare system that is not designed with parents in mind. Our parental instincts to keep our kids safe isn’t always enough because the medical world is unfamiliar, cumbersome, bureaucratic, and overly complicated. I should know – I’m a surgeon and I live in that world every day.
Fortunately, the American Pediatric Surgical Association (APSA), a professional organization of surgeons trained in the care of kids, has done a lot of work to make our job as parents a little easier. APSA recognized the need to provide guidance to make sure that kids needing surgery are cared for in the safest environment possible. Not every operating room is created equally when it comes to caring for kids. To address that, APSA collaborated with the American College of Surgeons (ACS) to develop a set of standards for safe surgical care for children. These standards are the foundation for the Children’s Surgery Verification Program, which aims to ensure that the needs of each child undergoing surgery are met appropriately.
Brenner was recently verified as a Level 1 Children’s Surgery Center by the ACS. Level 1 is the highest designation; it means we have the personnel, resources, and expertise to care for the full range of children’s surgical needs, from routine procedures for healthy kids (like ear tubes, broken bones, and appendicitis) to those needed for the sickest patients (like cancer surgeries and birth defects). This is the highest designation possible. We are one of only two centers in North Carolina to achieve this verification, and we are the only center in our region. What this means to you as a parent is that you can rely on the whole Brenner team caring for your child in and around the operating room to have the experience and equipment they need to provide the best care possible. Our Brenner team is fully staffed with pediatric anesthesiologists, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, speech therapists, respiratory therapists, emergency department physicians, intensive care physicians, radiologists, pharmacists, child life specialists, and pediatric medicine sub-specialists, among others—all of whom have the special skills needed to care for your child.
There’s a reason why medical professionals do specialized training in order to care for kids. In medicine there is a saying that “kids aren’t just little adults.” That means that the care we provide for adult patients can’t necessarily be scaled down to care for kids. Kids are special and the care we provide needs to be adjusted accordingly. Medical professionals who have done specialized training to care for kids know the nuances of kids’ anatomy and how disease processes affect them differently, and therefore are the ones best suited to do this work. Now, that doesn’t mean that kids can never get safe care from physicians who mainly take care of adults. Most medical and surgical specialties include some exposure to pediatric care. For that reason, the Children’s Surgery Verification Program has a tiered approach to verify different levels of specialization among centers. For instance, not every hospital has a pediatric intensive care unit, but they may have the personnel and resources to provide more routine surgical care to healthy kids. The Children’s Surgery Verification program wants to ensure that kids get the right care in the right place.
We are proud to be verified as a Level 1 Children’s Surgery Center, but we are not resting on our laurels. For quite some time our community and region has known that Brenner is a great place to go when your child needs surgery, but it’s equally important for us to let the community know that we are actively pushing ourselves to do even better. Brenner, as a part of Wake Forest Health, is part of a learning health system. In the past you might have heard these types of hospitals referred to as teaching hospitals, but over time the teaching mission has evolved into something more. In a learning health system, medical professionals are actively engaged in a culture of continuous learning and improvement. At Brenner, we review our surgical outcomes regularly, looking for ways to make things even safer. If something went wrong, we work as a team to discuss how it happened and brainstorm solutions. We are also training the next generation of medical professionals, so the people caring for your child are actively engaged with research, innovation, and education.
Everyone on our team is valued and has a voice. And we consider our patients and their parents part of our team. Your feedback, perspective, and recommendations are deeply valued. Your voice helps us keep the patient as the central focus of our work. Both as a surgeon and a parent I acknowledge I don’t always have the answers, but I’ve learned the power of asking questions. As a parent, sometimes the most important thing you can do for your child is be their advocate. If your child needs surgery, use your voice to speak up and ask important questions like these:
Why is the surgery needed?
Who will be doing the surgery?
Where will the procedure be performed?
Who will be caring for my child while under anesthesia?
What resources are available to help my child recover from surgery?
What can I do as a parent to support my child through this process?
At Brenner, we will do our best to provide you the answers to all of these questions, and more. We love caring for kids. It’s why we get up (very early) in the morning every day. Seeing your kids get better is the best reward.
Learn more about Brenner Children’s Pediatric Surgery and its recent Level I Verification by the American College of Surgeons.
- Sponsored by Brenner Children’s