Healing Children – Guidance for Parents and Children in ER Situations [transcript] [audio]

Guest: Dr. Kurt Newman

Presenter: Neal Howard

Guest Bio: Kurt Newman, MD, is president and CEO of Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C. A native of North Carolina and a graduate of Duke medical school, Dr. Newman has been a practicing surgeon and chief of surgery at Children’s National for over thirty years and is a professor of surgery and pediatrics at George Washington University Medical School. He helped create the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, dedicated to making children’s surgery less invasive and pain free, and is a strong advocate for the expansion of mental health treatment for kids. He and his wife Alison (a neonatal nurse practitioner) are the parents of two sons and live in Bethesda, Maryland.

Segment Overview: In this segment, Dr. Kurt Newman, President and CEO of Children’s National Health System and author of “Healing Children: A Surgeon’s Stories from the Frontiers of Pediatric Medicine”, gives tips to help parents on how to get the best care for their children, critical questions parents need to ask their child’s doctors, and lifesaving strategies to use in an emergency.


Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to Health Professional Radio. Now this year alone, 25 million kids are going to be seen in ERs with injuries and illnesses that could potentially impact them for the rest of their lives. Our guest in studio is Dr. Kurt Newman, President and CEO of Children’s National Health System and also the author of “Healing Children: A Surgeon’s Stories from the Frontiers of Pediatric Medicine”. He’s joining us here on the program today to talk about some tips to help us as parents get the best care for our children because that’s exactly what we want. Some questions that we need to ask our healthcare providers when it concerns our kids and also some life saving strategies that could be put into use in an emergency situation to help our kids survive. Thank you so much for joining us here on the program Dr. Kurt Newman.

Dr. Kurt Newman: Thank you Neal. It’s a pleasure to be with you today.

N: Tell us what it was that led you into Pediatrics?

K: Sure. Most of my career, I’ve been practicing pediatric surgeon just operating, taking care of children for almost 30 years. And then 6 years ago, I had this incredible opportunity to become the President and CEO of the hospital that I was working in and I had all these ideas about how to turn the hospital toward putting the patient, the child, the family at the center of everything we do. Not that the doctors and nurses aren’t important but I wanted to focus to be completely on the children and that’s the strategy we’ve been working on and it’s been tremendously successful. So, I wrote the book really to help people understand through stories of my career, children that I had taken care of are just incredible kids, to help illustrate a lot of things I’d learned about the special value of children’s health, children’s specialists, hospitals devoted totally to children. And I wanted to empower parents and families to really understand what it is that I came to know that they could take a larger role in their child’s health.

N: Now is this book project something that was always in the back of your mind or was it something that just kind of spurred up when you got that great opportunity at the hospital that you’re working for?

K: Well, I’ve been thinking about these issues for some time and in fact, I was frustrated from time to time and have people call me up and they’d say, “Well my child’s in this emergency department or is about to have surgery or maybe is in a natal intensive care unit somewhere.”. And I knew that they were in a situation that if they had the information I had, maybe they wouldn’t be in so much trouble calling me and in almost desperation. So over the years, I started thinking, there’s got to be a better way and maybe I could do this through writing a book. And so what I tried to do was through these stories of kids to illustrate why it’s so important to be in an emergency department for example where all the doctors there, all the nurses, they’re used to taking care of kids. They’ve got the equipment. They’re ready. And it’s not something that maybe they see only 2 or 3 a day but they’re seeing 20, 30 or 50 or that’s what they do.
N: As a parent, I understand fully you don’t want your child to have any discomfort whatsoever but when you’re in that emergency situation, that life-or-death situation, or maybe broken limbs something not necessarily life-threatening, as a parent your emotions are all over the place. Now I know you you’re focusing on how to give better care to the child but does your book address the emotional aspect of the healthcare professional trying to keep the parent from becoming even more of a problem in the ER because of their concern for the child?

K: Well absolutely. And I think one of the best strategies for that is preparation and education ahead of time. So all of us that are parents and I’m one, we spend a lot of time thinking about what school or our child is going to go to or maybe what sports team that they’re going to be on or who’s going to be their coach. And what I try to do in the book and I even put a section at the end called the “Seven Ways to Get the Best Medical Care for your Kids”. But one of the things is just like you develop an emergency plan for a fire at your house, do that, have an emergency plan for your child and so that you have maybe asked the questions of your pediatrician where would you suggest going in case of an emergency and what should I be asking or maybe to take the drive ahead of time and know what the route is and just get comfortable with where you need to park. I mean hopefully, we have to put that plan into place. But if you do, all of those things are kind of in your mind and settled so that you can focus on your child and not all the logistics or the worries there. There’s a lot of different situations you can even plan out for like maybe, if there’s a problem at school or maybe when their child’s away at camp or what happens down on the playground if they fall off the monkey bars and break an arm. So it’s really that preparation and forward thinking. You can even extend it even beyond that like, “Does your insurance plan cover the Children’s Hospital?”. Ask your pediatrician who do they refer to and where are the pediatric specialists? Or a big one if your child’s going to have a surgery, does that anesthesiologist? And not many people think about this, but does that anesthesiologist have a lot of experience with children? Do they know what they’re doing? Because in many cases what I saw over the years, the anesthesiologist was as critical to the good outcome as the surgeon and as a surgeon sometimes, it’s hard to admit, but you know it’s a team effort. So these are the kinds of proactive thinking that parents can really become the champion for their children.

N: Now in your book, you’ve got tips to help us as parents get the best care and you also mentioned some of the questions, what questions should I be asking in this situation? And your book also emphasizes the importance of how these small things seemingly insignificant things like making sure that you know where the best parking place is. It’s a potentially life-saving strategy many of which are pointed out in your book.

K: Well that’s right and I really want to emphasize is just the need to get those specialized care for children because there’s doctors, that’s all they do, there’s specialists, that’s all they do, nurses, that’s what they do for kids. So you want to be in a place that has that approach and attitude. And it’s not just the physical and the biology, I mean kids are so much different. They’re so resilient. They bounce back. I’ve had some great stories about kids and tough situations. A child I took care with liver cancer. Nobody thought this kid would survive a big operation and everything. He went through and he ended up carrying the torch in the Olympic parade when it came to Washington. You never want to count kids out. I mean they’re so resilient and they’re just so amazing. But it’s not just the biology that you need to know about and respect and you want your doctors taking it advantage of everything that we’ve got now with all the medicine and technology that’s happened. But also the psychology, kids are just so different and if you’ve ever been in a children’s hospital, people would say to me, “How can you work there? It must be just really depressing.”. And it’s actual opposite. We make so much effort for children that’s positive, that’s happy, there’s art, music, clowns, the kinds of things so that children can use their energy for healing. I just really believe that that whole aspect of things, that whole dimension play such an important role. But a child that’s 5 is different than someone who’s 10 is different than someone who’s 15. I see people taking their kids to maybe an urgent care or something with their child who’s had a concussion. I mean this is a head injury. This is the child’s brain and I’d want to go someplace that knows the difference between a 10 year old, a 15 year old and thinking about how brains develop differently. So that was really one of the central themes of the book is that children are different. It sounds trite to say that but when I see what I’ve seen over the 30 years I’ve been in practice, I’ve seen when you respect that difference and you get the right team, the right healthcare and parents are a part of that team, great things happen.

N: Dr. Newman, I’m aware that your book Healing Children: A Surgeon’s Stories from the Frontiers of Pediatric Medicine published by Viking is available on Amazon. Where can we go online and get some other copies of the book and find out a little bit more about yourself and Children’s National Health System located there in DC?

K: Well, there’s Amazon, Barnes & Noble locally here. It’s politics and prose. I think any local bookstore. But there is a lot of information online and I’ve even got a bit of a website that people can go to that is they can go to childrensnational.org or they can go to my medium page with Kurt Newman or Healing Children to get that information and all the proceeds go to research. So I want to help people not just hopefully they read the book and enjoy it because there’s a lot of just great stories about these kids but also that they’re helping the cause of research.

N: Dr. Kurt Newman, President and CEO of Children’s National Health System in Washington, DC. It’s been a pleasure and I’m hoping that you’ll return and talk with us in the future.

K: I would love to do that. Thank you and I really appreciate your interest.

N: You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard. Transcripts an audio of the program are available at hpr.fm and healthprofessionalradio.com au. You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, listen in and download at SoundCloud and be sure and visit our affiliates page at hpr.fm and healthprofessionalradio.com.au.

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