Gillette Children’s Hospital – Unique Small Hospital Offers Lifelong Therapy

Although the smallest hospital in the Twin Cities, Gillette Children’s Hospital occupies a special niche in the community. For nearly 100 years, Gillette Children’s has been serving the needs of children with disabilities and their families. Children throughout Minnesota, the Midwest and around the world visit Gillette Children’s to receive the unique care and services this hospital provides.

The Gillette Children’s staff focuses on the individual progress of the 850 children and adolescents admitted to the hospital and to the children who make approximately 30,000 outpatient visits each year.

These children may have brain or spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, complex orthopaedic problems, spina bifida or are children who breathe with ventilators.

Gillette Children’s is unique because success is measured through lifelong therapy, rehabilitation and treatment compared to a one-time hospital visit.


Team approach

When treating children with disabilities your measure of success changes.

“It is necessary to get rid of all the measuring sticks you’re raised with and change your thinking from comparing to what normal is to what the child can be,” Dr. Steven Koop said. “Viewing the child that way will make the child his or her own yardstick.”

Koop is an orthopaedic surgeon at Gillette Children’s where he is medical director of the orthopaedics program and director of medical education and research.

At Gillette Children’s, the rehabilitation process is a team effort.

Dr. Steven Koop compares the Gillette Children’s philosophy to the hub of a wheel with spokes leading to the periphery. “As opposed to the traditional pyramid model where the commands of the physician flowed down from the top, the wheel model is one of a dynamic, changing flow that reflects each child’s development. At any one time, any of the people on the periphery may move to the hub.”


Family-centered care

Parents are one of the most important spokes on that wheel.

Because many children who have disabilities need ongoing care and follow-up treatment, parents are a key member of the health care team. With this philosophy, Gillette Children’s identifies the specific needs of each family, incorporates the family into the child’s ongoing medical care and reinforces the family as decision-maker and partner in care planning. Each family has its own unique strengths and needs that must be considered.

Parents play a crucial role in the amount of independence gained by the child. The staff recognizes the importance of what the parents have learned about their child and try to continue familiar home routines.

In addition, the Gillette Children’s staff must be aware of resources for families, such as schools, home care, vocational and support groups.

The child who has been disabled since birth may already be using community resources, but the newly disabled, such as an accident victim, needs to be put in touch with those resources.

Gillette Children’s role in assisting the transition from the hospital-based care to living at home goes beyond assisting parents to reaching into the community and schools. Gillette Children’s staff members even travel to schools to explain to the child’s classmates what to expect when the student returns to school.

This team approach allows everyone involved with the child to meet and share ideas.


Unique services

To achieve Gillette Children’s family-centered goals requires a highly specialized and experienced staff who want to work with children, not in the role of caretaker, but one in which they can improve a life, bringing the child toward as much independence as possible.

A unique department at Gillette Children’s creates adaptive equipment and assistive devices that allows children to increase their independence and mobility. The Habilitation Technology Laboratory (HTL) provides orthoses, specialized seating, powered wheelchair controls, communication devices, prostheses, protective headgear and wheelchairs made to the doctor’s order.

Because the lab is located in the hospital, it provides a unique opportunity for the HTL specialists to work directly with therapists, physicians and other staff members.

HTL has expanded its services to the Gillette Technology Center in New Brighton. Equipment specialists and rehabilitation engineers still fabricate and modify equipment and communication devices at the hospital, but the off-campus technology center frees up needed space at the hospital and allows more equipment to be fabricated. Here, the staff also sees adult clients.

Also based at the Gillette Technology Center is the Mobile Outreach Program. Operating from a specially equipped van, the HTL staff travels to communities outside of the Twin Cities to evaluate, recommend and repair equipment. The program travels to more than 10 areas in Minnesota including Owatonna, Worthington and Moose Lake. For families outside of the metro area, the program saves parents and caregivers the time and expense involved in coming to the hospital.

Using computers and advanced technology, the Motion Analysis Laboratory assesses muscle, joint and nerve problems in children who have neuromuscular problems like cerebral palsy. The lab is one-of-a-kind in the Upper Midwest.

Rehabilitation Services at Gillette Children’s includes occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech/language pathology. Individualized inpatient and outpatient therapy programs are developed and the therapists consult with therapists in the patient’s community to provide a smooth transition from hospital to home.


Tradition of caring

For nearly a century, Gillette Children’s Hospital has been caring for children with disabilities and their families.

The hospital was founded in 1897 by Dr. Arthur Gillette. It was the first publicly financed hospital dedicated solely to the care of children with disabilities. Back then, the hospital was located at the old Ancker Hospital in St. Paul.

In 1911, the hospital moved to a new facility on 23 acres at Phalen Park. The hospital was located here until 1977 when it moved to its current facility in St. Paul-Ramsey Medical Center; by this time the hospital was known as Gillette Children’s Hospital, renamed in memory of Dr. Gillette. The hospital’s mission, that children with disabilities can be functioning members of society, remains virtually unchanged.


Facing challenges

Margaret Perryman, chief executive officer and president, faces many challenges in running a growing, one-of-a-kind hospital like Gillette Children’s.

Surviving the healthcare crunch of the 1980s, the hospital has experienced significant growth in the past five years. Averaging only 17 patients a day in 1986, today the hospital averages 31. Gillette Children’s is at capacity at its current location and looking to expand.

Also this year, the hospital hired two new orthopaedic surgeons, a developmental pediatrician, a neurologist and a pediatrician to help care for the growing number of patients seeking treatment, surgery and rehabilitation at Gillette Children’s.

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