The spirit of collaboration is typically strong across pediatric medicine; even competing institutions share a common goal of helping children. But the unprecedented challenges facing health care in the wake of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has spurred a higher level of teamwork, according to one hospital leader.
"For me, the most important thing has been partnerships," says Don Mueller, CEO, Children's Hospital at Erlanger in Chattanooga, Tennessee. "That's probably been the biggest thing that's happened in our community since COVID—these great partnerships have popped up between all these great entities with the common goal of taking care of kids and families."
As just one example, Erlanger has a partnership with the YMCA to provide a safe place for school-age children so their parents can get to work—which has been especially helpful in the face of COVID. "I was able to say, 'I've got a problem; I need daycare for nurses, for their kids,'" Mueller says. "And the YMCA told us, 'We've got that—we'll do that for you.'"
Children's interests overshadow competition
Mueller says the benefits go beyond just a greater quantity of partnerships—there's a higher sense of selflessness among the new collaborations. "I was on a call recently and somebody said, 'Leave your logo at the door,'" Mueller says. "It means we don't care who gets the credit but are just focusing on the result. Let's figure out how to partner together as a community and make things happen."
That spirit has kept Mueller's phone ringing; typical days now include fielding calls from organizations like United Way and Ronald McDonald House, as well as various local charities. And he says the calls all have a common theme.
"We're not competing," Mueller says. "These are all children, most of whom are poor. Let's just worry about what's in the best interest of the child—that's how things get done."
Selfless collaboration for the well-being of children is but one silver lining to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Children's Hospitals Today will explore these silver linings further in the summer 2020 edition, which will be available in early August.