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Kid care beyond compare on Indy's northside

August 11, 2021

Every time Annamarie Jackson comes to Riley Children’s Health at IU Health North for cancer treatments, the 6-year-old can count on two things: her favorite nurses will be waiting, and they’ll have “Roar,” Katy Perry’s catchy empowerment anthem, cued up and ready to go.

"The nurses know she loves that song, and they’ll play it for her every time,” mom Wendi Jackson says. “That’s what’s so nice about coming to Riley at IU North; in our case, we’ve always had the same nurses, so they quickly got to know us and we quickly got to know them.”

Expanding access to the high-quality, personalized care families expect from Riley Children’s Health is driving the recent push to add more pediatric services IU Health North in Carmel, Indiana. Starting last summer, pediatric emergency physicians from Riley Hospital for Children began rotating up to staff the emergency department at IU Health North alongside pediatric nurses and Child Life Specialists.

In emergent situations, every second matters. Riley at IU Health North focuses on providing a full-service pediatric model of care with access to Riley doctors and nurses when they need it most. There’s also now a walk-in orthopedic clinic staffed by pediatric orthopedic surgeons, along with regular physician coverage from pulmonology to cardiology and other clinics.

Pediatric patients who need minor or outpatient surgeries, like having their tonsils or appendix removed, can also now typically stay at IU Health North. Those who face more complex medical needs or surgeries are just a short referral downtown to Riley Hospital for Children and Indiana’s only Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center.

So far, the response has been very positive from Riley families, especially those who live on Indianapolis' north side. Receiving Riley care at IU Health North saves them time, plus allows them to stay close to home. The physicians who rotate through Riley at IU Health North bring all of their knowledge, relationships with subspecialists and, of course, topnotch best practices, emphasizes Cory D. Showalter, M.D., Riley’s Regional Medical Director for Pediatric Emergency Medicine. Especially in the midst of a pandemic, having that level of expertise in a setting closer to home can be invaluable.

“Our wait times to see a physician at IU Health North are under 10 minutes, and you’re seeing a pediatric specialist,” Dr. Showalter says. “We’re providing the same care as downtown, but you’re not as far from home.”

Riley’s acclaimed Child Life Program has also expanded alongside the pediatric offerings at IU Health North, meaning Child Life Specialists are able to see more pediatric patients.

“Here at IU Health North, it’s like your child gets an individual coach to partner with them and help make sure they’re an active participant in their care,” says Sara Barnett, Manager of Child Life and Volunteer Resources at Riley. That level of support is why Annamarie’s family says they will continue coming to Riley at IU Health North as the determined 6-year-old begins the maintenance portion of her treatment.

The important expansion of Child Life at IU Health North is thanks in large part to donors, as the majority of Child Life’s budget is funded through Riley Children’s Foundation. “Donors have been so important in bringing more Child Life services to IU Health North,” Barnett continues. “Child Life Specialists are here to assess patients’ understanding and teach positive coping while also normalizing the environment with toys or crafts. This can help with any wait times in the emergency department, or if we know a child is coming in for surgery and they’re anxious, Child Life can reach out ahead of time. They’re just so important to Riley’s level of care.”