I knew going into my tour of the Children’s Pavilion at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU that it was going to be a neat place. But I was completely blown away by all that I saw and was told, to the point where I felt compelled to rush back to my desk to tell you all about it. I know a “review” of a medical facility isn’t really a normal thing – it’s not a family activity or a performance at a local theater. But when we find out some really useful, important info, we want to tell you about it, so here’s a little of what I learned down at Tenth and Broad on a drizzly Thursday.
First, let’s tackle “the thing” that everyone, and I mean everyone complains about when it comes to traveling downtown: PARKING! Actually, let me back up fourteen minutes – that’s how long it took me to get to CHoR at VCU from my home in Hanover County. Really, it’s not as far away as folks in the ‘burbs think. Once I arrived, I was happy to find that the parking garage is right under the Pavilion (as in, one elevator ride straight up to your appointment floor). There are 600 spaces, available for either self-parking at $2 or valet for $5 (and if you’re an oncology patient, our friends at ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation are picking up your parking tab). There’s also a covered curb-free drop-off area, designed with strollers and wheelchairs in mind. Parking at children’s hospitals in other parts of the country can be up to $20 a visit, so the low cost is a big deal. But it’s the convenience that has families cheering.
I started my visit by heading up to the “Sky Lobby,” not sure what that term meant. Wow, what a space (the word lobby doesn’t do it justice). The very first thing I noticed was a reading cart. That’s right, free, new, books for the taking. No strings attached, no return needed, just take a book home and enjoy it over and over again. This is a neat program from the Arthur Ashe Books 4 Kids program. Next, I took in the expansive waiting areas – clean, open, colorful, with comfy chairs and sofas, and even tables and chairs (for big and little people) with charging stations (and free WiFi, of course). On the walls are beautiful pieces of local, nature-inspired art, and I had a blast with the interactive displays, which can be found on three of the levels. On the sky lobby display, my tour guide and I caught leaves, made snowballs, danced in the rain, and popped balloons as the seasons changed. I might have to pop back in one day soon just to revisit this display. All along one side of the sky lobby is a huge outdoor terrace, five floors above RVA, with beautiful views, plenty of seating, and even a huge wind chime to play. It’s a great place for kids (and grown-ups) to burn off some energy and get some fresh air during your visit.
Back inside, I checked out the Ronald McDonald House Sibling Center. That’s right, worry no more about what to do with the rest of the family while you’re at the doctor with your child. A team of child care specialists and volunteers will entertain them with age-appropriate games, arts and crafts, and other fun activities while you and your child are at your appointments. There are also lactation rooms on every level and lockers for you to store your stuff so you can walk around unencumbered. The planning team really thought of everything when they designed this building (over 5,000 hours of planning went into it – and it shows!). In the coming months, a pharmacy, gift shop, and grab-and-go café will be added to the Broad Street level, for even more one-stop convenience.
I have been fortunate to not need specialized care for my kids up to this point (there is not enough wood to knock on), but I’ve heard some things from other parents who have received services at CHoR at VCU over the years. While the care has always been top-notch, I had heard frustrations with the layout and flow of the facilities, with parents venting that they had to go to this building for x-rays, and that building for lab work, and yet another one for the actual doctor’s appointment (often with a hungry child who hasn’t been able to eat before his or her procedure). The planning team heard these concerns as well, and they set up this new pavilion with that in mind. Families now will likely have everything they need on one floor, often in the same “pod.” The Children’s Pavilion is divided into clinic and diagnostic pods to provide greater collaboration between specialists and easy navigation for families. What does that mean? Services are grouped together to make care more convenient for families (yay!). Neurology and physical medicine and rehabilitation are located in the same clinic pod so that children with complex neuromuscular needs can see multiple docs during one appointment. If a child needs testing, the diagnostic pod is just feet away from the exam room. Audiology is located just down the hall from primary care and ear nose and throat services so that when the doctor recommends a hearing test the family has convenient access. With more than eighty new docs hired since 2010, it’s likely that any sort of care your kids will need can be found right here in Richmond. And if you’re bringing along a brother or sister – they can have a little fun in the Ronald McDonald House Sibling Center while you focus on your other child’s medical needs. Each pod has a central core work area where doctors, nurses, therapists, dietitians, and other team members work together behind the scenes, while the “kids and families only” hallway provides a more quiet and calm transition into the exam room.
Just like the dedicated pediatric ER at CHoR at VCU, this new building means that kids have their very own facility that looks and feels like a kid’s space, free from some of the grown-up things one may see in regular ERs and medical buildings. VCU has a ten-year plan that includes new in-patient rooms and many more updates to its campus as well – more to look forward to, and more that’s putting RVA on the international map for pediatric care.