The last thing any parent of a sick child wants to worry about is finding the right facility. But when Bay Area parents seek the optimal environment for their child's medical treatment, they know they can trust the exceptional medical staff, advanced equipment, and specialized family-care liaisons at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford. And nearly 26 years after its grand opening in 1991, Packard Children's Hospital has taken an exciting new step in the pursuit of modernized design and technology: the addition of a beautiful new building that will double the size of the pediatric and obstetric hospital and showcase its tradition of superior medical care in a warm, welcoming environment.
To discover how the hospital's new facility will revolutionize patient care, we spoke with Kirsten McGowan, a member of Packard Children's Hospital's Cystic Fibrosis Family Advisory Council and the mother of a patient. Read on to learn how the sustainable design, family-focused care, and child-friendly features in the new building at Packard Children's Hospital help patients feel calm and comfortable during their medical treatments.
McGowan's relationship with the hospital began when a routine blood test during her first trimester of pregnancy revealed that her son had cystic fibrosis. "We had never heard of [cystic fibrosis] before," she explained. "We had no idea it ran in either of our families, so we were thrown into a spiral. You have this high of being pregnant with your first child, then all of a sudden you feel like it's not going to be what you expected."
"Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford has the best and the brightest to deal with those high-acuity or complex cases."
However, the superior medical care given to McGowan and her son, Pat, affirmed her confidence in Packard Children's Hospital. "Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford . . . has the best and the brightest to deal with those high-acuity or complex cases," McGowan said. "[Pat has] a chronic disease — he'll have it forever — but he has a very rigorous, preventative daily regime of medicines and breathing treatments, and he gets followed closely by his specialists. He's a healthy and happy 7-year-old who's in second grade and plays sports, just doing everything a normal kid would do."
Packard Children's Hospital is always attentive to Pat's needs. "My son tolerates most of his stuff very well. The one thing he really can't stand is getting his blood drawn, and they just do a good job," McGowan said. "We can ask for Child Life Services to come down and help, and they bring in really great tips and tools to help distract him and calm him down before he has his blood drawn."
"Utilizing all of the family-focused programs the hospital has to help children through their medical care is just really amazing."
Parents like McGowan are often overwhelmed when first learning about their child's condition, and Packard Children's Hospital has adapted to address each family's concerns with an overarching Family-Centered Care Department. The department promotes partnership between patient families and Packard Children's Hospital to assist the parents of patients as they navigate the challenging path of their child's treatment. The Family-Centered Care Department includes one general Family Advisory Council and eight additional councils, each with its own specialized medical focus, from cystic fibrosis to childhood cancer. Each Family Advisory Council includes the parents of current or former patients. According to McGowan, these councils are the key to superior care for patients and their families. "We help provide input on anything from patient safety to policy development and change initiatives . . . anything to help the partnership between the medical care team and the families," she said.
The dedication to McGowan's case by hospital staff and the Cystic Fibrosis Family Advisory Council encouraged her to become involved with the hospital's patient services. "Our CF care team approached me about participating as a parent on this Cystic Fibrosis Family Advisory Council," McGowan recalled. "It was a way to give back to a place that has given so much to me and my family."
The new building of Packard Children's Hospital carries on this devotion to personalized treatment and possesses state-of-the-art medical equipment to ensure little ones are properly cared for. A joint PET/MRI scanner allows Stanford Children’s experts to accomplish tests in less time and with less radiation exposure, which is especially important for children. Packard Children's neurosurgical hybrid operating room is the only one of its kind dedicated to pediatric patients in Northern California.
These additions make a world of difference in the diagnostic process and patient treatment overall. "You have state-of-the-art care, but it's also balanced with positive, interactive things to do and distractions to help you feel like you're not just living in a hospital," McGowan revealed. "Right when you step off the elevators, you have a welcoming, soothing place."
One of Packard Children's Hospital's primary objectives in designing the new building was an even greater devotion to patient needs. To translate this patient focus to the design of the new building, McGowan and other Family Advisory Council members relayed their ideas to the architects behind the new building — Perkins + Will, in association with Hammel, Green and Abrahamson Architects (Executive Architects and Medical Planners). "We gave feedback [to the design team] on everything from furniture to interactive design elements for the hospital," McGowan said. The new building's design therefore incorporates tranquil communal spaces and whimsical and playful flourishes to soothe children. During a preliminary visit to the new building, McGowan's son particularly enjoyed the Interactive California Coast Wellness Eco Zone. As children shift positions, jump, or wave, their actions alter the images on the screen. "Last week, we were able to bring my son to the new hospital, and he was able to play on the interactive ocean wall, where he could pretend he was a pelican flapping his wings,” McGowan recalls.
The result of that feedback is a California ecosystem design theme that doctors, staff, and patients love. A towering and sustainably designed Redwood Elevator welcomes children into the hospital from the lobby, and each subsequent floor represents an eco region that helps to familiarize families with the building's extensive space. Young explorers might find themselves in a yellow desert populated by illustrated California quail or bravely striding alongside walls decorated with kit foxes and tiger salamanders on the way to their rooms.
McGowan notes that one of Packard Children's greatest gifts to patients is a sense of home. "In terms of the patient rooms, [you] have more dedicated space for the families and screens to get some privacy, because it is their home for a long time," she said. With this in mind, Packard Children's Hospital created spaces on every patient care floor where families can access laundry rooms and kitchens. And an additional three and a half acres of gardens and recreational grounds — including the animal-themed Dunlevie Garden and the ocean-inspired Emerald Garden — let patients and their families take some literal breathing room. Those seeking a space for quiet reflection or a creative outlet find a place as well. "There's a meditation garden, there's a sanctuary, there's a meditation room, there are reading nooks," McGowan noted.
"You have state-of-the-art care, but it's also balanced with positive, interactive things to do and distractions to help you feel like you're not just living in a hospital."
And when parents balancing busy careers with their child's care need an hour or two to focus on managing work and everyday responsibilities, the hospital offers a Family Resource Center with printers and other useful work tools. McGowan has found these assets invaluable. "If you're a working parent that needs to stay at the hospital, you can plug in and have access to the WiFi and different resources you might need to help manage your life while you're in the hospital," she said.
The hospital's ethos inspired a handful of particularly fanciful elements. The "Incrediball" Machine is a gamified art installation inspired by pinball that invites hospital visitors to behold small spheres on a rollercoaster ride through a miniaturized version of the Stanford campus. The machine stands in the lobby, where it captivates patients and their families on a daily basis.
However, McGowan’s favorite aspect of Packard Children's Hospital is an art project to which she personally contributed along with other Family Advisory Council members. "There's one featured art element that's a sculpture of a cow made up of children's toys, and all of the parents from our department were able to give toys that went into making that cow," she said. "It's fun to walk by and see it now. There are thousands of toys." The rainbow-colored cow stands in a place of pride within the hospital, delighting young patients and serving as a reminder of the many people who worked tirelessly to ensure the hospital offers kids a safe and colorful space to heal.
If patients and their families require any reminder of the values upon which the hospital was built, they need only look to the Lucile Salter Packard Tribute Wall. The etched-glass tribute wall depicts hospital founder Packard alongside patients and her great-grandchildren against a backdrop of the California coast, illustrating her lifelong devotion to children's health. In this way, Packard's legacy of remarkable humanitarian efforts takes center stage within Packard Children's Hospital, reminding all who enter that the future of their children is in excellent hands.
Credits: Photography: Andria Lo; Production: Andi Nash; Hair and Makeup: Shannon Le