easy, friendly, accommodating, attentive, calming, quiet, welcoming
These aren't the types of words most people would typically use to describe what it's like to have surgery, then stay in the hospital overnight. Yet you hear them over and over when talking to patients, families and staff at Children's Hospital Boston at Waltham.
It's still a place where the machines beep, kids need popsicles after having their tonsils taken out and stressed parents huddle attentively at bedsides after their children come out of the operating room.
But there's just something different about the environment in Waltham. It could be the completely renovated facility (it was previously Waltham Hospital) filled with state-of-the-art equipment. It could be that everyone seems to know each other when they pass in the colorful hallways. Or it could be the fact that every detail—from the fish-shaped lights in the operating room waiting areas to the couches that pull out to beds in the inpatient rooms—was put in place with pediatric patients and their families in mind.
It could be any of these things or many others, but orthopedic surgeon Martha Murray, MD, who operates on patients in both Boston and Waltham, thinks she knows why patients and families like it so much in the suburbs. "Everyone has worked hard to make this an outstanding experience for the patients, parents and surgeons," she says. "I have patients who have had surgery in both locations and they tell me they'd rather be in Waltham. They just find it a more relaxed experience."
Children's bought the facility in the fall of 2004 out of necessity. Like other hospitals in Boston, it faced the reality that there was no more room for a new building to house expanded services, despite the fact that patients were still coming in droves. To get a new building into the Longwood Medical Area, where Children's and a host of other medical, scientific and educational institutions reside, requires builders to think the opposite of urban sprawl; there's nowhere to go but up.
So Children's started looking outside the city. And the old Waltham Hospital was perfect: It was spacious, conveniently located right off two of the three major highways in the area and only 15 miles to the west of Boston. And, perhaps most exciting for anyone who's ever paid Boston's high parking rates, it has a garage where visitors and staff could leave their cars for free.
In June 2005, Children's at Waltham opened with clinics covering more than 20 specialty areas and the ability to provide many of the same radiology procedures performed at Children's main campus. Since then, Waltham has opened four operating rooms where a wide variety of simple and complex surgical procedures are performed; 10 chairs for procedures like blood transfusions, medication delivery and other infusions; the Center for Communication Enhancement for children with communication disorders; a sleep disorders clinic with Richard Ferber, MD, and, just this spring, 11 beds for overnight stays.
The entire facility is beautiful, but the patients' rooms take the cake. They're all big, private rooms outfitted with flat-screen TVs, DVD players and Internet access, and they're painted a calming blue and decorated with a fun, astronomical theme.
Of course, none of these services and amenities would matter if the quality of the care wasn't as good as what patients and families can get in Boston. And that's where the many people who planned the Waltham expansion did their best work.
Julee Bolg, RN, MS, MBA, director of Patient Care Services in Waltham, helped hire the nurses who now care for patients in Waltham; she and her colleagues set the bar high. "The standard of care is the same here as it is in Boston," she says. "So we were looking for nurses with a lot of experience who could think on their feet and be flexible."
Of the 12 nurses hired to staff the inpatient unit, 11 were at Children's main campus before moving to Waltham. This consistency of care extends to the pediatric surgeons and anesthesiologists, who go back and forth between the two sites and perform many of the same operations.
Among the early converts to the ways of Waltham was the Steeples family from Billerica, Mass. Duncan Steeples counts out all the fingers on his right hand to let you know that he's 5 years old, and holds up two fingers on his left hand to show how many surgeries he's had at Children's; the first was in Boston last year to have a birthmark removed, and the second, just the previous morning, was in Waltham to have his tonsils and adenoids taken out.
"There's a very holistic approach here," says his tired but relieved-looking mom, Eileen. "They care for the children, but also for the parents; they know we're stressed too. If this had been available last year, we would have been very happy to come here instead of going into Boston. It's closer to home, the parking is convenient and the nurses are top-notch. He got exactly what he needed, when he needed it, to make him feel better."