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CHoR Transitional Care Unit wins American Health Care Association award for quality achievement

Child doing exercises with a physical therapist

Only 3 percent of long-term care facilities in Virginia have achieved this award

The Transitional Care Unit of Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR) has received the American Health Care Association 2020 silver award for quality achievement. Only 3 percent of long-term care facilities in Virginia have achieved this award for sustainable quality outcomes and processes.

More than 30 children with ongoing health conditions reside within the CHoR Transitional Care Unit (TCU). A large staff of nurses, therapists and dentists also call the unit home.

Here, recreation therapist Jessica Gulizia shares how CHoR’s award-winning TCU helps children thrive.

What makes the TCU unique?

Our TCU is a special place because of who we serve. We really strive to provide a sense of normalcy for our children, who have very complex needs. In order to be a patient in the TCU, a patient must need medical and nursing supervision, as well as specialized equipment or services — such as a mechanical ventilator or cardio-respiratory monitoring.

We are vastly different from most long-term care facilities because we provide care specifically for kids. We work together as a team not only to meet all of their medical needs, but also to help them have fun and thrive on a daily basis.

What type of services are provided to patients on the unit?

Our kids benefit from comprehensive care including medical care, nursing, respiratory therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, restorative care, recreation therapy and pastoral care.

What is your role and what does this entail on a day-to-day basis?

I’m a recreation therapist on the TCU. My role is to provide the residents the opportunity for recreation participation, leisure education, leisure counseling and community reintegration. My colleagues and I strive to make every day special — whether that means holding a Valentine’s dance complete with a DJ and decorations or engaging in the Songs for Kids program, where volunteers play musical instruments and we sing along.

We see all of the children daily and facilitate recreation therapy services to fit the needs of each individual resident. Pre-COVID we also would take an outing once a week so they could enjoy the great things our community has to offer. Right now, we’re limited in our ability to engage as a group, but social distancing and other coronavirus regulations have simply required us to become even more creative in our activities.

How does the team in the TCU make sure kids are thriving?

We have a very compassionate and caring team. In order to facilitate all the special programming we do, it takes everyone to be on board. Our team goes above and beyond, with many serving on committees to plan a variety of special events of our kids.

One committee plans year-round for our annual beach trip. We also have a family day committee that plans quarterly events for the residents and their families. These committees include representatives from nursing, recreation therapy, respiratory therapy, pastoral care and more so we can be sure we’re supporting our kids’ health in all areas.

In recreation therapy, seeing the children’s smiles and laughter when engaging in the programming we provide really shows how much they are thriving. We also receive positive feedback from our families regularly.

What school services are provided for kids in the TCU?

Most of our residents go just down the hallway to our on-site school. This allows them to get the care they need for their complex medical needs, while still receiving education alongside their peers. We do have a few residents who go out to school in their home districts, as well. These kids receive their recreation therapy services when they return home to the TCU in the afternoon.

You’ve mentioned beach trips. Can you tell us more about these trips and the other fun recreation therapy activities for the kids?

We have a lot of exciting programming in recreation therapy. During our annual beach trip, we spend a day at the Virginia Beach oceanfront and provide sensory opportunities, including sitting in the sand and getting into the ocean. Going to the beach is something most of these children otherwise would not be able to experience due to their medical needs, so we love being able to provide this for them.

In addition to the beach trip, we plan two camp weeks a year — one in the spring and one in the summer — where we go on outings every day and have a special event in the afternoons. Last year we went to the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk, Great Wolf Lodge and even the Pentagon.

We also go swimming twice a month in the summer, fishing, to the movies, bowling, apple picking, gem mining, the Richmond Flying Squirrels games and so much more. We’re very lucky to be able to provide such a wide variety of opportunities that are fun, educational and engaging for the kids.

The TCU recently earned an award from the American Health Care Association. Why is this award important to the team, and what do you think it means for families?

We’re really excited about this honor. It reinforces that what we’re doing is impactful. I also believe it’s one more reason for families to have confidence in us as a facility and the care we’re providing their children.

What’s your favorite thing about your job?

I really love my job because I know the impact it makes on the daily lives of the residents. I love finding out what they’ve always wanted to do and then finding a way to make it a reality for them. My favorite part of my job is seeing the residents every day and helping them have that sense of normalcy that everyone deserves.

The TCU at CHoR is a very special place. It’s such an honor to make every day better than the last. Instead of focusing on the residents’ disabilities, we focus on their abilities and what they can achieve.

See our transitional care unit