January 2019 Giving and Growing

The PICU leadership team includes Dr. Jarrod Knudson, chief of pediatric critical care, and Shelly Ivers Craft, nurse manager.
The PICU leadership team includes Dr. Jarrod Knudson, chief of pediatric critical care, and Shelly Ivers Craft, nurse manager.
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Meet our providers: New specialists boost PICU-record care team numbers

Published on Friday, January 18, 2019

By: Annie Oeth

The most critically ill and injured children in Mississippi have never had so many physicians and nurse practitioners at their side.

With the addition of Dr. Vishwanath Gajula and Dr. Laura Wright-Sexton in August 2018, the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Batson Children’s Hospital has its largest number of care providers in UMMC history.

“We now have 11 critical care physicians and 10 acute care nurse practitioners,” said Dr. Jarrod Knudson, associate professor and chief of pediatric critical care. “About seven years ago, we had three pediatric critical care physicians and three nurse practitioners.”

That dramatic increase was driven by improvements in care offered at Batson Children’s Hospital.

“During those years, we became a Level I trauma center, we got our ECMO (heart-lung life support machines) program back, the pediatric heart surgery program was revitalized, and we started our pediatric organ transplant programs,” Knudson said. “To do all those things well, we have to have highly skilled medical professionals to care for these patients.”

Growth is expected to continue once UMMC’s $180 million pediatric expansion opens in fall 2020, Knudson said.

The seven-story tower now under construction will include 32 private pediatric intensive care rooms, each of which will be more spacious for care teams and for parents.


PICU nurses having a discussion

Dr. Elizabeth Christ, left, professor of pediatric critical care, talks with Dr. Jonathan Smith, Dr. Marivee Borges Rodriguez and nurse practitioner
Nikki Mayo about patient care plans. The pediatric intensive care unit team includes the largest number of physicians and nurse practitioners
in Batson history, and that number is expected to increase with the
construction of a new hospital expansion.

A new home for the Children’s Heart Center, additional surgical suites, 88 private neonatal intensive care rooms, a pediatric imaging center, and an outpatient subspecialty clinic are also part of expansion plans.

“We are caring for the most critically ill children in the state,” said Shelly Ivers Craft, PICU nurse manager, “but we need more resources, more nurses and nurse practitioners, more physicians across the board to provide the best care for these children and families.”

Critical care often calls for collaboration with doctors from other subspecialties, such as cardiology, oncology, and neurology.

“Our role in critical care is keeping watch 24-7 over a child’s organ functions and working to keep them stable,” Knudson said. “There are also conditions that are treated specifically by critical care specialists, such as shock, respiratory failure, allergic reactions and drug overdoses.”