​​The Transformation of the Children’s Hospital

​April 28, 2018​​​​

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You treat a disease, you win, you lose.
 You treat a person, I guarantee you, you win,
 no matter what the outcome.” 
Patch Adams (1998)


The Children’s Hospital Service Line at the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) celebrated a renewed philosophy and transformation with Patch Adams, renowned healthcare activist and physician, famous for dressing up as a clown and advocating for love and compassion in the medical profession. 

Patient comfort lies at the heart of the transformation, with streamlined, patient friendly processes; the goal is to create a hospital that children love rather than fear. To help sick children relax and cope with the stress and fear of being hospitalised, the Hospital has also introduced play therapy. With this change, doctors, nurses and hospital staff are also encouraged to communicate with patients using compassion, love and laughter.

In celebration, the Children’s Hospital organised a Children’s Gala with Patch Adams, followed by a dinner with AKUH supporters on Saturday, April 28.  The leaders of this initiative at AKUH, Dr Salman Kirmani, Chairman, Department of Paediatrics, and Child Health, and, Dr Babar Hasan, Service Line Chief, Children’s Hospital, have been leading a cultural change and a transformation in the way care is provided to children over the last five months. Dr Kirmani said, “This is really a journey of excellence. We wanted the experience of coming in and working with compassion and enjoyment, and this change has been inspired by the work and philosophy of Patch Adams. His philosophy is of improving the emotional wellbeing of patients with compassion and love in caregiving, rather than simply treating diseases and preventing death. This is how we also view care within the Children’s Hospital Service Line.”

Parents are distressed when their children are admitted and unwell, and the support provided to them and their children at a hospital is vital to their emotional wellbeing. Nurses and hospital staff that spend the most time with patients play the greatest role in improving this experience, and they need to be motivated and committed. To improve their job satisfaction, the Children’s Hospital has empowered nurses with a mentorship programme and supported personal growth and encouragement in their teams with role models. Team building exercises and trainings to improve trust and problem solving, have given nurses and hospital staff the opportunity to resolve longstanding grievances - such as redundant paperwork, double duties and lack of autonomy - with employee ownership and engagement. 

As Dr Patch Adams addressed supporters, he stressed the importance of love, laughter and care within a hospital, and shared why he became an activist, “No medical school teaches compassion, and no school teaches the most important thing in life, which is loving… When I entered medical school, I could not deal with my professors because they were rude and arrogant. I could not be silent, so I knew that I had to make a hospital that would address all the problems of care delivery.”​

After spending an entire day with patients, doctors, nurses and residents, Patch Adams was excited about the renewed vision of the Children’s Hospital, “I saw the hunger walking around; the nurses having the freedom to dress up as clowns, and their own misbehavior in that experience. It looked like the whole hospital had a hunger for change… and the change you want is easy to make if your staff is loving.”