Standing high above the city, just off the 51 and Thomas Road, is a 12-story building that catches the eye and calls out to the helper in all of us. Even if you have never visited PCH yourself, the probability that you know someone who has been a patient there or has been impacted by their work is even higher than the building itself. A beauty in both architecture and in the heart of their work, Phoenix Children’s Hospital is a household name to anyone living in the Valley of the Sun and is even recognized throughout the nation. This recognition is an honor well-deserved as they continue to excel in their mission of providing “hope, healing and the best healthcare for children and their families”.
Recently, we had the opportunity to tour the facility with Mandy Marcinko, Account Manager Corporate Partnerships, who plays a dynamic role in raising funds for the myriad of services they offer, as well as the ongoing growth of Phoenix Children’s. Walking through the halls, we passed families smiling and looking at ease. As the child of two emergency room nurses, one of them a pediatric ER nurse, I’ve never known a hospital to feel anything short of chaotic. That was the first sign that showed me how much care and thought has gone into making this hospital. Mandy was the pinnacle of tour guides, narrating the history of PCH, and even pointing out the many sculptures and art pieces throughout, explaining the specific role played by each. From helping visitors identify their floor by which animal sculpture was present, to bringing a little levity to an often heavily-burdened visit, everything has a purpose.
As we watched the sunlight dance off the blue, crystalline chandelier of the main lobby, Mandy told us more about the design behind the building, explaining that it all came down to asking the patients’ families, “How do we make this a better experience for you?”
“’We want a connection to the outside world. We don’t want to be stuck inside a dark hospital.’”
Standing in the lobby, we were surrounded by natural light, hallway walls with colorful, ambient lighting, and the evident influence of natural elements like water, air, and earth. As we continued our tour, we talked more about the history of Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
How did Phoenix Children’s Hospital start?
September 18, 1983 – “Doctors were like, ‘We want to start something that’s just focused on pediatrics, focused exclusively on children and their developmental needs. They got together, took over a floor and launched Phoenix Children’s Hospital within Good Samaritan.”
A “hospital within a hospital”, PCH operated within Good Samaritan Hospital until they purchased a 22-acre property that had previously been Phoenix Regional Center, thus creating the first freestanding children’s hospital in Arizona, officially opening their doors in May of 2002. Eight years later, PCH expanded even more, opening specialty and urgent care centers in the East and Northwest Valleys, an 18-apartment center with Ronald McDonald House Charities housing patients and their families that don’t live nearby, and a multi-year expansion to build the hospital’s structure to the 11 stories it is today.
How large is Phoenix Children’s Hospital?
“We’re the sixth largest children’s hospital in the fifth largest city in the country, with the fourth largest pediatric population.” PCH also has specialty centers all throughout the Valley and the surrounding areas.
What services does Phoenix Children’s Hospital offer?
PCH currently has close to 1,000 specialists, and they provide inpatient, outpatient, trauma and emergency care for over 75 subspecialties. They are among the largest pediatric healthcare systems in America and the most comprehensive in the state. In addition to medical care, PCH also offers many support programs and educational resources such as their Child Life Zone, 1 Darn Cool School, Animal-Assisted Pet Therapy, Social Work Services, The Emily Center, and more.
Child Life Zone + Braeden’s Playground
“Our Child Life Zone is the largest playroom on campus. We have playrooms on every floor, but this is our biggest,” Mandy says with pride and delight in her voice.
The Child Life Zone is full of games and activities for patients and their families, driving home the point that this is a hospital that takes care of their patients’ physical and mental health, which encompasses having their families near and providing a positive experience to them as well.
Throughout the room, there are air hockey tables, pinball machines, basketball hoops, video games, and a broadcast studio that can patch trivia and other entertainment to patient rooms. Not too far away from the indoor playroom, we also took a stroll through Braeden’s Playground, a 4,500-square-foot area with a slide and jungle gym, a performance stage and their Phoenix Suns Basketball Clubhouse. The playground is named for Braeden Chamblee, a newborn who passed away at only nine days old. In his memory, kids at PCH can come here to get away from the hustle and bustle of being in a hospital, and biobehavioral experts can use the space to for social and therapeutic play.
Animal-Assisted Pet Therapy
“One of our beloved programs in the hospital is Pet Therapy. The kids LOVE our Pet Therapy program. In fact, they love it so much that we have started a facility dog program… Through philanthropy, we were able to have two dogs and their handlers that are actually full-time. They’re here all the time, and now we have two dogs that are basically part of the family, and we don’t have to rely just on volunteers. Although, the volunteers obviously supplement that work and provide more capacity to see kids, because the kids just love it.
“The thing about pet therapy too is that not only is it fun and comforting, but we’re also doing research and collecting data around how it helps to calm them, helps them deal with stress, and helps improve outcomes. The other thing about this program is that it helps to incentivize the kids to comply with their medical treatment – like eat or take their medicine or to do their rehab exercises. IF they know that they’re going to get to have a pet therapy visit, they are very motivated to do what they need to do to make sure that happens.”
The Emily Center is a once-library that has evolved over time to become a place where parents can go to find educational resources and staff that help them better understand what their child is going through. There are much fewer books now, as the information has been expanded and made available digitally at the center, allowing more parents to take advantage and find what they’re looking for much quicker.
The Emily Center is named for Emily Anderson, a young girl in the 80s that lost her battle to a rare form of adult leukemia shortly before her seventh birthday. Her parents struggled to understand what Emily was experiencing and struggled in finding resources that were simple enough for someone other than a trained physician to comprehend. After Emily passed, her parents co-founded the center with other family members and a pediatric nurse from PCH to empower others in similar situations, so they would have access to reliable resources that are easy to understand. Not only does the Emily Center provide support to parents, but young patients and siblings are also catered to here in the Kid’s Cove area, which has information designed especially for kids to read and learn.
All of the programs offered by Phoenix Children’s Hospital, as well as the life-saving medical care that happens within these walls wouldn’t exist without the support of the community and their philanthropic efforts. Through the Ronald McDonald House as well as Staybridge Suites, PCH is able to help people from all over to find lodging so they can stay with their kid as they go through medical treatments, which helps to ease anxiety and fear on the parts of both the patient and family members.
“We try to work with our families to ensure that it’s not financially burdensome and do what we can to help cultivate and care for them.
Phoenix Children’s hosts events that run the gamut of the emotional scale such as life celebrations and memorials that allow families that have lost a loved one to come together and find a sense of community that understands what each other are going through, to dances for the kids and Halloween carnivals to give them that sense of normalcy and joy.
As Mandy says, “Phoenix Children’s just continues to grow, and grow, and grow, and grow.” Very soon, you’ll begin to see more and more PCH centers pop up around the Valley.
They have a new pediatric wing being built in Gilbert that will be connected to a current Dignity Health hospital that cares for adults. Their campus in Avondale, which has a surgery center and some outpatient services, will see an expansion to house some of the outpatient services, and they’ll be turning the specialty care center into a full functioning emergency department. Those who live in Northwest Phoenix will be happy to hear that one of their newest sites will be a new pediatric hospital in Arrowhead at 67th Avenue, near the Abrazo campus.
On June 16th, 2022, Phoenix Children’s received commendation from U.S. News & World Report as a “Best Children’s Hospital” for the 12th consecutive year, and from everything we’ve seen from them, it’s not hard to understand why.
The story of Phoenix Children’s Hospital inspires all of us at SunWest Credit Union to face down our toughest battles and offer support to others in theirs. That’s why we have chosen PCH as our June recipient of proceeds from our Refi for a Reason program. See how you can help support PCH in their efforts to provide top medical care to kids in our community.
Published by SunWest Credit Union
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