Niswonger Children's Hospital among area's top health care assets
Kingsport area residents of all ages have many excellent health care providers that greatly enhance the region’s quality of life. Niswonger Children’s Hospital is at the heart of the community, providing care for children from near and far.
“The community is overwhelmingly supportive of the hospital and happy we are here,â€ says Lisa Carter, CEO of Niswonger Children’s Hospital. “Whatever the kids need – toys, sippy cups, anything – the community comes out to provide it.â€
Niswonger Children’s Hospital opened the doors to its very own building in 2009 with stained glass windows, natural light beaming inside, bright colors everywhere and artwork by children decorating the walls.
The 86-bed facility, surrounded by the rugged beauty of the Appalachian Mountains, treats patients from birth to 18 years and offers private rooms. Along with many specialties of care, including neurology, endocrinology and an orthopedic clinic, hospital officials say they also provide a sense of play amid the high-tech medical equipment. Niswonger offers several programs aimed at creating a positive hospital experience for children and their families – and then to make smooth transitions back home.
“Children are not just small adults, they have different needs,â€ Carter says. “As adults, we can sit still and endure a blood draw and other tests, but these can be scary things for children.â€
To reduce the potential scariness, the hospital’s Child Life Program staff use play to prepare children for tests and procedures and ensure kids are coping at their individual levels. Child Life Specialist Lacey Hillard lets patients hold and familiarize themselves with equipment such as IV lines and catheters, and she uses stuffed toys to show her young patients how an IV is prepared and inserted.
“Our Child Life staff are our heroes,â€ Carter says. “They help kids through challenges and make sure those don’t have a lasting impact on their lives.â€
There also are ongoing games, activities and special guest appearances to provide a lighthearted atmosphere. When a patient is healthy enough to return home, the hospital’s School Re-Entry Program works with teachers and classmates to encourage patients’ seamless transition back to school.
A Place for Families
Carter says Niswonger is not just a place for young patients. Hospital staff help patients and their families to navigate medical treatments and the hospital experience. Staff work with siblings to help them better understand what their brother or sister is experiencing, and pet therapy groups ease anxieties for the whole family.
Large kid-friendly waiting areas, a kitchen, shower, laundry facilities and a computer room are available to families of young patients. A flexible design in patient rooms invites caregivers to sleep in their children’s rooms.
“We recognize we’re caring for the entire family,â€ Carter says. “These areas provide respite outside the children’s rooms while allowing caregivers to be close to their children, without having to drive back and forth home. We offer many amenities of home that you just don’t find in most hospitals.â€
Big City Care in a Rural Region
A Ballad Health facility, Niswonger Children’s Hospital was first established in 1992 and serves patients from a 29-county area that stretches across four states. In the last fiscal year, Niswonger treated nearly 19,000 pediatric patients from Tennessee; more than 2,600 patients from Virginia, 131 from North Carolina and 101 from Kentucky.
“Most children’s hospitals are in big cities,â€ says Carter. “We’re unique in many ways. We serve a large rural area and we see patients from as far away as Charlotte and Winston-Salem.â€
A Tri-Cities Affiliate Clinic of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Niswonger Children’s Hospital had 30,318 outpatient visits last year. Its emergency room – the only pediatric-specific 24-hour emergency department in the region – last year served 17,561 patients. Carter says planning is underway to bring pediatric emergency room services to Kingsport and Bristol and to expand telemedicine options.
“Healing is improved when families can get care close to home; we know that anecdotally,â€ she says.
Reaching Into the Community
Niswonger Children’s Hospital also provides outreach programs for students throughout the region. The Morning Mile program encourages exercise in kids by allowing them to meet before school to run or walk and already is in more than 80 schools throughout the region. Also, there’s the B.E.A.R. Buddies program, which pairs high school students with elementary students who need a boost in reading skills. Buddies meet weekly to work on reading.
The region is known for its robust health-care sector for adults, too. The area is home to other award-winning facilities such as Holston Valley Medical Center and Indian Path Medical Center, which offer cancer care and many other specialties and cutting-edge treatments, allowing local residents to receive the care they need without ever leaving their community.