These days, when Elizabeth Zadzielski, M.D., MBA, FACOG, helps a mother deliver her first child, she’s also thinking ahead. In a few years, if that mom comes to deliver her second child, the baby will be born in Christiana Care’s new Center for Women & Children’s Health — an expanded, state-of-the-art facility opening in 2020 and designed for the whole family.
The planned 400,000 square-foot, family-focused Center for Women & Children’s Health includes an eight-story building and state-of-the-art renovations to current space. Much more than bricks and mortar, this $260 million initiative signals a transformation of women’s and children’s care at Christiana Care, where generations of families in Delaware and the region have gotten their start.
“The Center for Women & Children’s Health will bring the whole family together,” said Dr. Zadzielski, clinical director for ambulatory women’s health and associate leader of the Women & Children’s Service Line. The center will feature private patient rooms — perfect for bonding, breastfeeding and learning to care for a newborn — larger labor and delivery suites, an innovative neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), a family-friendly rooftop garden and the respectful, expert care that is Christiana Care’s hallmark.
“Everyone wants an exceptional experience in the place they start their families, and this new center at Christiana Care represents the future of women’s and children’s health in Delaware,” said Amanda Sleeper, co-chair of Christiana Care’s volunteer Women & Children’s Patient and Family Advisory Committee. Representatives from the committee were part of the design team for the new facility. Their input helped to shape the final blueprints.
“For many years, Christiana Care has been committed to incorporating patient and family feedback, but this was a unique partnership that took our collaboration to the next level,” Sleeper said. “We are thrilled that it will result in a family-focused, engaging and community-friendly health care experience for women and children.”
The Center for Women & Children’s Health will continue to serve with the excellence that earned Christiana Care recognition from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services as the region’s only National Community Center of Excellence in Women’s Health. Christiana Care is also the recipient of the John M. Eisenberg Patient Safety and Quality Award and is No. 1 in Delaware and No. 3 in the greater Philadelphia region in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hospitals national rankings.
“People seek care where they feel safest and have the best outcomes,” said David A. Paul, M.D., chair of the Department of Pediatrics and clinical leader of the Women & Children’s Service Line. “The Center for Women & Children’s Health is not about just the building. It’s the foundation of our promise that babies can get the healthiest start and women can get the care they need to live healthy lives. The physical structure will complement the care inside.”
Much of that care will be focused on maternity. More than 6,300 babies are born at Christiana Care each year — more than anyplace else in Delaware. Christiana Care is also the state’s sole high-risk delivering hospital with a Level III NICU. All of that experience helps to create an outstanding care team.
“All of us want the very best for the newest members of our community and for their families,” said President and CEO Janice E. Nevin, M.D., MPH. “We are bringing the full range of the health system’s expertise to women, babies and children. This significant initiative is part of our commitment to the healthy future of our community and our state.”
Integrated, family-focused care
Christiana Care’s next generation of women’s and children’s health focuses on patients and families, and also on population health. Designed by the architectural firm HKS, the Center for Women & Children’s Health will feature:
- A welcoming, family-friendly main lobby with soothing tones and patterns that will carry throughout the building.
- Larger labor and delivery suites and a new labor lounge, with waiting and visiting areas closer to labor and delivery areas.
- Spacious private rooms for mother, baby and family after birth.
- A tranquil family rooftop garden with welcoming outdoor seating and walking space.
- Open community spaces for health education and programs.
- A leading-edge NICU with private rooms offering sleep-in spaces for families.
- Expanded continuing-care nursery for babies with special needs.
- Vibrant, playful spaces with interactive displays and artwork.
The new building will adjoin the present-day two-story Women & Children’s building, which is being renovated to create a seamless experience.
“As we are designing the building, we are attuned to the changing needs of women across generations and how to engage women before, during and after they walk through our doors,” said Matthew Hoffman, M.D., MPH, FACOG, Marie E. Pinizzotto, M.D., Endowed Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
One area of transformation is the approach to neonatal intensive care. The new NICU design is based on extensive evidence showing the health of premature babies improves faster when they have regular close contact with their mothers and family members, said Dr. Paul. The new NICU will offer quiet, spacious, private rooms for babies, with enough space for long visits and overnight stays for moms and dads — a dedicated investment in keeping babies and parents together that is rare across the country.
Ready for the next chapter
Christiana Care is building on a long history of leadership in women’s and children’s health care in Delaware, Dr. Hoffman said.
“For more than a century, Christiana Care has been the premier choice for Delaware families to bring new lives into the world,” he said. “That is a sacred trust that we take deeply to heart.”
Christiana Care offers extensive support services through all stages of the maternity experience, from before conception through the first years of motherhood. These include a range of educational classes that prepare families for life with a newborn.
“I learned so much — from what I should eat to what changes I should expect in my body,” said Patricia Hall of Wilmington, who participated in Christiana Care classes and support programs for expectant mothers. She’s now the mother of three. “The classes were informative and interactive and really fun. I loved meeting women in the same shoes as me. By the time I had my first child, all of my questions had been answered. It was everything I needed.”
To make moms comfortable while they’re in the hospital, Christiana Care’s At Your Service provides concierge-like arrangements for in-room services like massages, manicures and pedicures, and food delivery from local restaurants. Other examples of supportive services for families include on-site car seat checks so babies can go home safely, and the Kitty Esterly, M.D., NICU Special Needs Fund that helps families stay close to their baby in the NICU and transition safely to home.
Christiana Care also guides women through the emotional experience of motherhood. As many as 20 percent of women develop postpartum depression or a related disorder, and the Christiana Care Center for Women’s Emotional Wellness provides much-needed behavioral health support services before, during and after pregnancy, including counseling, group therapy, medication and support groups.
Healthy babies, healthy Delaware
With attention to prenatal care, patient education and partnerships with community health organizations, Christiana Care makes significant contributions to the health of women and children in our community.
In the past year, Christiana Care has reduced NICU admissions of babies born at term and has reduced its primary C-section rate, which is a C-section for a first birth, often an indicator for subsequent C-sections.
To ensure continued positive outcomes, Christiana Care partners with community organizations, including Brandywine Counseling Services in Wilmington and Connections in Delaware, on primary and preventive care programs and services to set moms and babies on the path to good health.
Similarly, Christiana Care has made breastfeeding a priority. Evidence shows that breastfeeding exclusively for at least the first six months of life improves health outcomes for women and their babies, and lowers infant mortality rates. Christiana Care’s Breastfeeding Education and Resource Center provides emotional support, advice, tips and breastfeeding supplies to help moms who want to breastfeed.
“Breastfeeding can be daunting for mothers, and we want to help them be successful,” said Mona Liza Hamlin, MSN, RN, IBCLC, manager of Parent Education and Lactation Services and chair of the United States Breastfeeding Committee. “Education is important, and so are opportunities to connect with other moms and access to equipment like breast pumps. We’re making sure we provide all of the resources possible to help moms breastfeed well.”
For its dedication to promoting breastfeeding practices, Christiana Care earned a Baby Friendly designation, part of a global program of the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund. And according to a survey on maternity practices in infant nutrition and care by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Christiana Care is a national leader in best practices in infant feeding.
Serving women across the course of life
Beyond healthy beginnings for families, Christiana Care provides a full spectrum of services for women of every age, from the teen years to the senior years. To advance this nationally recognized care across the lifespan, Dr. Zadzielski is forming a committee of specialists from different service lines to explore ways of using the new Center for Women & Children’s Health to improve service for all women.
“Most of gynecology and non-obstetric women’s health care is provided in an outpatient setting and is specific to a health concern or need,” said Dr. Zadzielski. “We will look at how we can tie together all our services to make a more focused and comprehensive program that addresses a woman’s health along her lifespan.”
Innovative uses of technology offer opportunities to engage women, even when they are well and at home, in their gynecological health and other areas like bone health, mental health and heart health.
“Along with expanding our physical space, we’re developing online resources for women and children’s services,” said Dr. Hoffman. “We’re working to provide women with easy-to-access health information that will help them understand their own health and well-being and find resources to meet their needs.”
As the full transformation takes shape and construction advances on the Center for Women & Children’s Health, Christiana Care is poised for an exciting new chapter in the health system’s remarkable history.
“Come 2020, the Center for Women & Children’s Health will be the physical manifestation of a bold vision shared by Christiana Care and the community we serve,” said Dr. Paul. “This is where families are born.”
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