What do you get when you combine state of the art technology, a high concentration of pediatric cardiac specialists, and the resources of a world renowned teaching hospital?

A heart center of excellence that cares for a growing number of increasingly complex patients.

In the summer of 2014, it became clear that there were a number of factors limiting the Heart Center’s ability to accept new patients.

“Over the past two years, we’ve done some major work in terms of expanding our capacity,” says Patricia Hickey, PhD, MBA, RN,  FAAN, Vice President of Cardiovascular and Critical Care Services at the Boston Children’s Hospital Heart Center.

Along with Pedro delNido, MD, Cardiovascular Surgeon in Chief, James Lock, MD, Cardiologist in Chief, Roger Breitbart, MD, Chief of Inpatient Cardiology and Audrey Marshall, MD, Chief of Invasive Cardiology, Hickey played a key role in organizing the efforts to improve capacity and maintain the Heart Center’s high standards of care— including the launch of an interdisciplinary staff committee that met every Thursday morning for nine months. The group evaluated a cohort of long-stay patients and developed a predictive model for cardiac surgery scheduling. The model has since been implemented, and it has contributed to improvements in the planning process for patients and families to access Boston Children’s Heart Center services.

In addition to the committee’s work, the Heart Center holds a “capacity huddle” every morning at 8:15.  The coordinating surgeon of the day works tirelessly to manage the logistics of caring for current and imminent patients. Hickey notes that the team is constantly aware of “orbiting” patients, who are being managed at other hospitals but may be transferred here soon.  Communication between their providers and our cardiac surgical specialists is extremely important.

A new clinical building slated to open in winter 2022 will bring even more capacity and innovative enhancements to the Heart Center.

New space, new opportunities: Building a state of the art Heart Center


The new building’s layout will increase proximity between cardiac specialties to streamline patient care, increase efficiency, and improve the patient experience. The space is designed to optimize the interdisciplinary collaboration that the Heart Center has built over the years.

“In addition to expanding our teams and hiring more clinical staff,” says Hickey, “We’re also examining new care models. For instance, to optimize patient and family care, we are re-thinking our diagnosis-based and age-based models. There are a number of highly alternatives we’re discussing, and these are very exciting times for us to be able to shape the future of care delivery.”

The new building will house only single occupancy patient rooms (“Double rooms are the greatest cause of distress for our patient families,” says Hickey), and each one will be adequately equipped for simulations. Currently, these exercises are often performed in a dedicated simulation suite with some ability for portable simulation. The new ‘in-situ simulation’ model will be used for medical procedures, of course, but also for team based exercises, crucial conversations, and breaking bad news— the “other” part of the medical equation

Peppered strategically throughout the new building will also be information “hot spots,” where physicians and other members of the patient care team can easily access a patient’s entire medical record in digital form.

“Our outcomes continue to be excellent,” says Hickey, “but we know it is critically important to look ahead.  We have lenses for viewing both the short and long terms.”

Heart Center capacity at Boston Children's HospitalHeart Center New Building Capacity at Boston Children's Hospital