Beyond Nursing Care

Medical daycare makes education a priority.

Karen Carter, RN, served her country in the Army Nurse Corp and now serves children with complex medical needs as director of nursing for ChildrenFirst Health Care System’s Prescribed Pediatric Extended Care program [PPEC] in Deltona.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Karen felt a call to become a nurse.

“In the PPEC, we provide children with specialized nursing care,” states Karen. “They get daily assessments, which include temperature, pulse, breathing and other vital signs. We feed them, through a gastric tube or by mouth, and we observe any machines or monitors they may have.
“In my role, I manage the day-to-day operations, but I’m still part of the staff, so I also provide nursing care to the children who attend the center.”
It’s important to Karen to be able to continue providing nursing care along with her other responsibilities in the center. She feels being a nurse is her calling.
“Most nurses are called to do a certain type of nursing,” she explains. “Some like pediatrics; that’s my specialty. Others like OB-GYN; others like the elderly. All the nurses in the ChildrenFirst PPEC have pediatric experience because that’s our calling. Our work allows us to give unconditional love and to impact a child’s life with the emotional support and developmental stimulation that all kids need throughout the day and while growing up.”

Focus on Education

The nursing staff in the ChildrenFirst PPEC are not just caregivers; they’re also educators. They provide the children in the center with an opportunity to develop intellectually as well as physically.
“Our centers are very educationally focused,” says Marie Schiavi, co-owner of ChildrenFirst Health Care System. “Often, parents who have medically complex children don’t have an outlet for education and care so they can continue to work or continue with their family needs. Then, the medically complex child remains at home and does not progress.
“Our philosophy in the PPEC is, number one, to provide the children with their ongoing medical needs, and number two, and really most importantly, to begin streamlining them into their educational process. It’s very difficult for children who have medically complex problems and have been developmentally delayed or delayed due to multiple hospitalizations to mainstream. They always seem behind.
“Each of our centers has certified teachers who not only teach, but also know sign language. They’re bringing these children along from their current developmental age, so by the time they’re well enough to be discharged from a medical daycare center and go to school, they’re not far behind their classmates.”
Marie adds that the National Association for the Education of Young Children accredits the ChildrenFirst PPEC. It is the only program of its kind in Florida to have this certification.

Echoed Sentiments

Karen echoes Marie about the dual philosophy of the PPEC. She explains some of the benefits of the ChildrenFirst PPEC for the children who attend.
“Instead of having nursing care at home, children come to the center so their parents can go to school or work, or so the children can get the socialization that healthy kids get in a daycare setting,” she describes. “Our kids have special needs, but they still get the stimulation of a daily daycare experience.
“It’s more than nursing care. Our PPEC is one of the first programs to establish a pre-kindergarten, early-childhood teacher in the center, so the kids can get the developmental stimulation they need. That’s what differentiates us from other PPECs.”
She adds that the environment in the PPEC is conducive to growth and development.
“ChildrenFirst PPEC has a great nursing staff and a great team of people who are all dedicated, which makes it a really pleasant place to work and help families raise their children,” relates Karen. “We work to get these kids ready to transition to the public school system after we’ve had them for five, six, seven years in the center. During that time, we really see changes in them in developmental growth.”

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