​Oklahoma Children's Hospital Completes Pediatric Intensive Care Unit Expansion

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Children’s Hospital held a grand opening celebration of its newly expanded Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), Friday, July 19.

The PICU expanded areas will open to patients on July 22. More than six years in the planning and implementation, the facility represents a $27.5 million investment in improving quality of care for children throughout the state of Oklahoma and the surrounding region.

“I’m incredibly excited about this new facility,” said Morris Gessouroun, M.D., chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. “It has been highly anticipated and will dramatically improve our capacity to care for the children of Oklahoma in need of these high-intensity and high-tech services. This pediatric ICU will be the most modern and technologically advanced PICU in the state, while at the same time being the most family-friendly of any such care facility in Oklahoma.”

Housed on the sixth floor of The Children’s Hospital, the new PICU will have 34 non-cardiac intensive care unit beds, providing state-of-the-art care for seriously ill and injured kids up to 18 years of age. Previously, The Children’s Hospital had 13 non-cardiac intensive care unit beds and 12 cardiac intensive care unit beds. Renovations to those existing 25 PICU beds will begin in the near future, modernizing the existing area to become the cardiac intensive care unit, thereby increasing the total intensive care unit beds at The Children’s Hospital to 59.

“Increased capacity means more patients receive the care they need from the most skilled providers with great depth of experience,” said Jon Hayes, president of The Children’s Hospital. “We struggled at times to be able to care for the many patients who needed our services. Now we are able to better fulfill our mission - to take care of every child through our combined efforts.”

Kendal Pinkston, chief operating officer of The Children’s Hospital, described the variety of patients who receive care in the unit: “The newborn whose delivery and discharge were routine may become seriously ill.; the middle-school student exposed to a respiratory virus; or the 18-year old whose accidental injury requires hospitalization - we have all the resources to meet these needs and more.”

The range of conditions, illnesses and injuries treated at the PICU make it difficult to cite an “average” length of stay, but for some patients, treatment and recovery may be as lengthy as four months.

Beyond superb patient care, the facility and its staff focus on family-centered care, providing support for the practical and emotional needs of family members. All facets of the new PICU came together with families in mind. Deborah Browning, chief nursing officer at The Children’s Hospital, explained that even during construction, a family advisory council previewed the expansion and offered recommendations based on first-hand experience.

“A great deal of attention has been paid to these spaces to make them not only highly functional, but comfortable and inviting,” Browning said. “Private bathrooms, separate sleeping areas, places to watch TV – these are the kind of amenities that allow and encourage family members to take care of themselves when their lives have been so disrupted.”

One of the measures the PICU utilizes to ensure the highest quality care is the level of support provided to staff members. The Children’s Hospital will be the first facility in the state to incorporate Schwartz Rounds for this purpose.

“The critical care environment offers both unique challenges and privileges for caregivers,” Browning said. “Schwarz Rounds is a comprehensive system of caregiver support that preserves and protects the human connection in healthcare.”

The strategic plan was exhaustive and complex, requiring relocation of several departments and services. Pinkston said the vision began to take shape in 2013, as leaders met to identify specific areas of need and discuss them in detail.

Staffing the expanded PICU was more than a routine recruitment effort. “Caregivers must be absolutely right for the position,” Pinkston said. “An affinity for children is not enough. They must be committed to the care of the child, of course, but each adorable child is attached to a family unit and each family member deserves compassion and consideration.”

The PICU offers these services and features, among others:

  • 24/7 in-house, board-certified physicians with specific expertise in pediatric critical care medicine
  • PICU-trained physical and respiratory therapists
  • Family-centered approach to care includes private family spaces
  • Family spaces within patient rooms
  • Child life specialists with specific training for intensive care environments
  • Advanced technologies including:
    • Latest generation emergent extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)
    • Renal replacement therapy
    • Bariatric rooms capable of providing care for obese patients
    • Isolation rooms for burn and immunocompromised patients


At The Children’s Hospital, pediatric staff blends years of training with education, research and technology to improve the lives of children throughout the region. The obstetric emergency room at The Children’s Hospital is a regional referral center for the state, and the neonatal intensive care unit provides the highest level of newborn care in Oklahoma. Children’s is also home to the only 24/7 pediatric emergency room in Oklahoma City. With a family-centered approach to healing, Children’s offers resources from pet therapy to child life specialists who help families cope with hospitalization and illness. From advanced surgical services to general pediatrics, oncology care and more, The Children’s Hospital provides cutting-edge research and treatments through hospital-based and outpatient services. To learn more, visit oumedicine.com/childrens.


OU Health — along with its academic partner, the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center — is the state’s only comprehensive academic health system of hospitals, clinics and centers of excellence. With 11,000 employees and more than 1,300 physicians and advanced practice providers, OU Health is home to Oklahoma’s largest physician network with a complete range of specialty care. OU Health serves Oklahoma and the region with the state’s only freestanding children’s hospital, the only National Cancer Institute-Designated Stephenson Cancer Center and Oklahoma’s flagship hospital, which serves as the state’s only Level 1 trauma center. OU Health’s mission is to lead healthcare in patient care, education and research. To learn more, visit oumedicine.com.