Since 1936, the Nemours Children’s Health System (NCHS) has been providing holistic subspecialty health and wellness services to all kinds of kids—those with debilitating diseases, those who need a little help with temporary ailments, and even those who never enter the facility’s doors. Thanks to a trust from Alfred duPont, the Nemours Foundation was formed in 1936 with the mission of improving the lives of children and families in Delaware and Florida. Today, that mission continues with locations or partnerships in nearly half the country and $2.6 billion worth of cumulative care over the past eight decades.
The local Northwest Florida branch of NCHS, Nemours Children’s Clinic Pensacola, opened on the Sacred Heart Hospital campus in Pensacola in 1996. Today, the location features 27 pediatric subspecialists contributing their talents to 11 subspecialties including cardiology, endocrinology, orthopedics and more. Last year, Nemours Pensacola diagnosed and treated approximately 12,000 unique patients and between 250 and 300 children enter its doors each day. They also gave $1.9 million worth of uncompensated care in 2014, signifying their value of people over profits, and making children their top priority.
All in all, Nemours has two dedicated hospitals, 14 partner hospitals, and more than 40 outpatient primary, urgent and specialty care clinics. They also employ more than 600 physicians; 206 researchers; 27 PhDs; 1,437 residents, fellows and students and more than 6,000 associates. When a child is under Nemours care, they are quite literally subjected to one of the best patient-care experiences in the nation with access to the expertise of over 8,000 highly trained professionals of unequaled dedication.
Nemours in Pensacola sees patients from as far east as Tallahassee and as far west as Biloxi. As the largest center of pediatric subspecialists—even more than Mobile—their role in keeping children healthy cannot be overstated.
The organization features a network of partnering facilities that have access to Nemours’ knowledge base. A patient having diagnostic tests performed at Ft. Walton Beach Medical Center, for example, can have a subspecialist from Nemours Pensacola review the results and lend his or her experience to their particular situation. In this way, Nemours is a Mayo Clinic-like network of experts all working together to ensure the health and safety of children everywhere.
“That’s one of the things that sets us apart,” said Dr. Mary Mehta, chief medical officer for Nemours Pensacola. “We can share best practices from the perspective of licensed subspecialist care. We are able to drive the needed expertise to a community that needs it.”
The care that these doctors provide is always on the cutting-edge of the latest research, too, because they are very often the ones involved in the newest clinical studies. Right now, Nemours is involved in more than 300 stage two and stage three trials, including studies on cystic fibrosis and diabetes.
And they are training the doctors of tomorrow, too, by providing about 65 percent of the education for Florida State University’s pediatric medical and residency program. They also partner with Pensacola Christian College and Pensacola State College to train nurses.
Working toward developing a healthier patient base in the future, Nemours also helps educate children with regards to diet, education, reading, screen time recommendations, sleep routines, emotional wellness and more. In fact, Nemours’ early child care collaboratives, population health and reading readiness work extend beyond their physical reach to 22 states impacting more than 900,000 children, according to their annual report. They even offer parenting seminars and tips to ensure kids receive positive physical and emotional support from everyone in their life.
Years ago, Nemours helped pioneer kidshealth.org, the most visited site in the world devoted to children’s health and parenting with more than one million visits a day. With kidshealth.org, the young patients themselves can log in and read about their treatment plan in an easy-to-understand way and even keep abreast of upcoming procedures. The forum also provides advice from licensed professionals and comfort from those who have been through their hardships before.
“It’s extremely important to us that we care for the whole child,” said Jodi Gup, development manager for Nemours Pensacola. “We have individuals who help coordinate things every step of the way so the patient is comfortable, can receive education about their situation, and ask questions.”
Gup said that the institution is very proud of the time and attention that doctors dedicate to patients.
“Typically after receiving a diagnosis, you might have a half-hour or so with the doctor who will go over treatment plans and such,” said Gup. “It’s not unusual for our doctors and nurses to spend half a day with the same patient, talking to them, making sure they understand, and educating them on next steps.”
It is for that reason that patient satisfaction scores for Nemours physicians are at or near the top 5 percent nationally.
All of this is crucial not only to the health and wellness of the patient, of course, but to the overall vigor of the region in terms of lifestyle, economics, education and more.
“Say someone has a child who needs frequent medical attention for some sort of ailment,” said Mehta. “The family may want to relocate here for work or even lifestyle, but without highly qualified medical staff ready to help take care of their child, they may decide to not come here.”
The same is true for those who are here if Nemours was not available, according to Mehta.
“Before Nemours opened here, you would have had to travel to Atlanta or Birmingham or Orlando for treatment,” said Mehta. “If those treatments were frequent enough, you may just decide to move there for your child. With Nemours, we can treat the patient here and access knowledge from all over the country.”
That holistic quality of care is unrivaled among other pediatric care providers. Nemours fills a void that would exist without specialized, dedicated care just for children.
“Pediatric care is a different discipline than adult care,” said Mehta. “An adult heart doctor may honestly not know how to treat a not-fully-formed heart.”
As if all this was not enough, Nemours also partners with the Department of Defense and Lockheed Martin to identify strategies for successful reintegration of military physicians back into civilian health care.
“Something a lot of people don’t know about us is how closely we work with our local and regional military,” said Gup. “If someone is stationed here and their child needs medical care, we work closely with the bases to provide that.”
The Pensacola branch is also looking to invest in a new medical van that can more expeditiously bring the care to patients. They currently have an older van but believe a newer, more reliable one would better serve their patients. In some regions of Northwest Florida, residential areas with sick children are up to an hour away from a hospital or medical facility. Often in these cases, the parent is faced with a choice of taking off work from their hourly job to get their child the medical attention they need, or going into work to make money for food and shelter. This van would eliminate that difficult decision by bringing the doctors to the young patients, instead of requiring patients to come to them.
As is the case in many nonprofit healthcare systems, 60 percent of Nemours patients are Medicaid eligible, which means that there is very often a funding shortfall. The trust established by duPont covers about 20 percent of the difference, but private funding is extremely important for the organization. That is where the Nemours Fund for Children’s Health Division, which Gup is in charge of on the regional level, comes in. The division Fund would like to bring in between $5 and $7 million a year to subsidize patient care and supplement what Medicaid does not cover.
The residual impact to the community is well worth the investment, according to Gup. The total community impact for all of Nemours is astounding: $163 million in uncompensated care, $19 million in prevention, and $4.5 million in education and training of health professionals. Of the $150.2 million in trust distribution funds in 2014, communities saw a return of $210.8 million.
While individual contributions are extremely important—and account for the second greatest source of Nemours funding—there are other ways to get involved, too. In 2014, Nemours Pensacola recruited 27 volunteers who dedicated 1,010 hours of service supporting 24 divisions and departments, equivalent to a monetary contribution of $22,275.
Nemours’ mission is to provide leadership, institutions and services to restore and improve the health of children through care and programs not readily available. With their high standards and peerless dedication to progressing every aspect of a child’s life—from their health and emotional stability to their community and beyond, that mission is accomplished every day in the worlds of the children who come through their doors, and even those who do not.