While children’s hospitals have been heroic during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are still experiencing an uneven response nationwide. However, if there is one thing the past 16 months have taught us, it is that we must remain vigilant and adaptable as this public health crisis seems to shift without warning.
As children’s hospitals, we have done exceptional work to adjust and respond to the ongoing needs of our teams and the children we serve. With vaccinations widely available and opportunities for younger children to receive vaccines on the horizon, many states have begun to turn the corner. And yet, others are experiencing new surges of infections.
Our work during the pandemic has revealed many practices we are assessing for longer-term value. These include: remote working ; telemedicine; patient flow, visit and care models; and how we increase health equity by taking a more active role in public health and our communities.
We must also turn our attention to the residual effects of the pandemic —the behavioral health crisis our nation’s children and youth face, the unknowns of the fall viral season, inconsistent rates of vaccination, future COVID-19 variants, and considerations to prepare us for other potential public health crises.
Essential to our success will be our people—the ones who brought us through the past 16 months working on the front lines or just behind them to ensure children and families received the best care.
The good news is we are not alone. As a community of children’s hospitals, we are working diligently to support each other and focus on strategies that carry us beyond the pandemic. Through Children’s Hospital Association and the peer networking and learning opportunities available to us, we are re-engaging our attention on behavioral health, quality and data initiatives with a relentless focus on equity, and strong, healthy, inclusive and more diverse teams.
Proceeding together, with one voice, has never been more important. In June, 50 patient families came together virtually and amplified their voices as participants in the 2021 Speak Now for Kids Family Advocacy Week. They shared stories, met with lawmakers and participated in fun and games. They truly were stronger together—and so are we.
Our communities and the children and families we serve depend on our ability to collaborate, learn and improve. As we all continue to do the important work of responding to the challenges of today, let’s also remember that by coming together as a community of health care leaders, we must be bold in our pursuit of improved child health.