Children that have gone through a major trauma like a car accident or a significant illness that changes how they move or their thinking abilities may need inpatient pediatric rehabilitation before going home.
Inpatient pediatric rehabilitation involves an extended stay in the hospital so that physical, occupational or speech therapy can be provided regularly depending on your child’s needs.
“Kids that need inpatient pediatric rehab are unable to move like they used to move, or they’re not able to take care of themselves like they were prior to their illness or injury,” said Shana Bohman, rehabilitation services manager at Marshfield Children’s.
Transitioning to inpatient pediatric rehab
Typically a child enters pediatric inpatient rehab after they are medically stable and able to participate in the program. They may receive additional follow-up care from their doctor while at the unit.
“Many of our patients are brought initially to the pediatric intensive care unit and then transition to a regular bed on the pediatric unit. It is typically after this that they transition to the inpatient rehab program,” said Bohman. “I think that’s one of the benefits of the program here because our teams typically follow a patient from the pediatric ICU to the rehab unit.”
Sometimes patients need to be moved to a different hospital in order to receive care from an inpatient pediatric rehab program. Some patients move to be closer to home, while others move because the hospital they have been staying in doesn’t offer inpatient pediatric rehab.
“Typically pediatric rehab units are in suburban areas, so the fact that kids in northern Wisconsin or central Wisconsin don’t have to go to Milwaukee or Madison or Minneapolis for this level of inpatient rehab care is very unique,” said Bohman. “We have many patients join our program from other facilities that handled the initial phase of their injury or their illness.”
If you would like to move to an inpatient pediatric rehab unit that is closer to home, talk to your child’s care team about this possibility.
If you have to travel long distances for care, look for a facility that has a Ronald McDonald House close by that allows families to stay for free while their child is receiving care.
What to expect each day
At the Marshfield Children’s Hospital inpatient pediatric rehabilitation program, the children get three hours of therapy a day, five days a week. Additional therapies are offered on Saturdays and Sundays.
The child typically has two physical therapy sessions, two occupational therapy sessions and a speech therapy session if needed. Child life and recreational therapy also have scheduled time with the patient each day. There can be time scheduled for meals, naps, imaging such as X-rays and schoolwork as needed.
While this may feel a bit like school, Bohman says it is important to also have fun.
“It’s important for kids to play and have fun, so that’s still a big focus of what we do,” Bohman said. “We try to make therapies as fun as possible, and a lot of play is integrated into that. We also make sure that they have time to just play and be kids with friends or other kids on the unit.”
The care team
The inpatient pediatric rehabilitation unit has 24-hour nursing care. Specialists involved in your child’s care may include:
- Pediatric physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor
- Physical therapists
- Occupational therapists
- Speech therapists
- Recreational therapists
- Child life specialists
- Music therapists
- Case managers
- Social workers
Beyond these members of the care team, the child should have access to all of the specialty services they need from the children’s hospital.
“Our team gets together once a week and talks about what are our goals going forward, what goals has the patient and family met, and what’s our next plan of care for the patient,” said Bohman. “Our ultimate goal is the patient going home with their parents or guardians and getting back to school in activities with their friends.”
The full program typically ranges from 2-4 weeks, but can be longer depending on the current function of the patient when they come into the program.
Best programs are accredited
Pediatric rehabilitation programs are monitored by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, or CARF.
Individuals from CARF survey pediatric rehabilitation units internationally to review the programs for quality and provide recommendations. If a program meets the CARF standards, it can be accredited for three years.
“The current accreditation process is incredibly detailed and very specific related to processes that we have in place around everything from our physical environment to our patient care standards,” said Bohman.
It is also important to ask if the facility is accredited as a child and adolescent inpatient rehabilitation program. There are some adult inpatient rehabilitation programs that can admit children.
“A child and adolescent inpatient rehabilitation program can be better suited for children than those facilities that are only accredited for adults,” Bohman said.