New Jersey-based RWJBarnabas Health has expanded its pediatric palliative care program at the health system’s Children’s Specialized Hospital (CSH).
The move will increase outpatient and inpatient pediatric palliative care services at the hospital, as well as across the health system’s footprint.
CSH is launching an outpatient component of the pediatric palliative program this spring at RWJBarnabas Health. Meanwhile, the CSH Long Term Care Center is renovating its inpatient facility to include 14 patient beds, including an additional hospice bed supported by a local nonprofit, Liam’s Room.
The expansion allows for more health care provider resources and expanded access to palliative care for serious and terminally ill children and families in the community, according to Dr. Colin O’Reilly, vice president and CMO at Children’s Specialized Hospital.
“Pediatric palliative care is about focusing on a child and family’s total health — that of their mind, body, and spirit,” O’Reilly told local news. “We find ways to support their total health while also providing their needed medical interventions. This is what we do every day with nearly all the patients that come through our doors at Children’s Specialized Hospital. We are proud to expand these services to families across RWJBarnabas Health.”
The health system operates four acute children’s hospitals, including CSH. Others include The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital of New Jersey at the Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, and The Unterberg Children’s Hospital at the Monmouth Medical Center.
CSH operates 15 locations in eastern New Jersey and in 2022 cared for roughly 35,000 children with complex medical conditions. The hospital system was established in 1891 to provide community-based summer respite services for seriously ill children and families in underserved rural regions. The hospital took on its current brand in 1962 and established a long-term inpatient pediatric care unit in 1988.
RWJBarnabas Health employs around 37,000 staff and provides care to more than 3 million patients annually, of which roughly 200,000 are pediatric patients. In addition to adult and pediatric palliative care, the health system also offers hospice, among other services.
Part of the expanded program at CSH will include increasing physician education in pediatric palliative care.
RWJBarnabas Health partners with Rutgers University to provide clinical education. Through the partnership with the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical Schools, more than 1,000 medical residents and interns receive training annually across the health system’s hospitals.
RWJBarnabas Health in 2020 launched the Anchor Training program to swell its base of clinicians trained in pediatric palliative care, partnering with local centers to develop and provide specialized curriculum. The one-year program also provides training in social work and chaplaincy, among other interdisciplinary support services. Around 47 graduates have completed the program since its launch, and 42 current enrollees are expected to graduate by June 2023.
Public misunderstandings that conflate hospice and palliative care exist among clinicians as well, particularly when it comes to pediatric populations, according to O’Reilly.
The expanded pediatric palliative education program works to break down barriers of misconceptions and shore up future generations of clinicians and health care workers, he said.
“Because of how it is seen in the adult population, there is a misconception that palliative care is only equated with death,” O’Reilly said. “While end-of-life and hospice care is an important aspect of palliative care, it’s only a small part of what we do as palliative care providers.”