John R. Nickens
President and CEO of Children’s Hospital
Children’s Hospital made the national news when a COVID-19 spike in New Orleans began affecting kids at an unprecedented rate. Throw in a hurricane, and it’s not the summer that anyone at the Uptown institution hoped for. Battling the virus and Mother Nature on the front lines were daunting tasks, but Children’s managed to not only fight the illness, but keep its revolutionary campus transformation on schedule.
In 2021, Children’s Hospital completed a $300 million expansion project that added 230,000 square feet of new clinical care space, including new units for surgery, cardiac intensive care, emergency and behavioral health services, a comprehensive cancer center and a novel child life area.
“COVID affected kids like we had never seen before, and certainly New Orleans was the hot spot,” said John R. Nickens, Children’s Hospital’s president and CEO. “Then we had an out of season RSV outbreak, which normally happens in the winter. And then Ida. So, one of the things I’m most proud about and that, really, we hold as a moment of having a good year is we remained focused on our core mission – providing the best care for kids – and completing the $300 million campus transformation.
“We hit all of our ribbon cuttings in the midst of these challenges, even though we couldn’t have anyone from the public [attend]. We did our jobs. We took care of business.”
Nickens said the new campus was designed with each step of the patient and family experience in mind. Natural light permeates the floor to ceiling windows illuminating the interior of the main concourse, which runs the length of the hospital and makes it easier for patient families to traverse the different areas of the hospital. For children who deal with sensory overload, he said there are places specifically designed to be quiet and help them from being overwhelmed.
Additionally, with the recent addition of the Hogs for a Cause “Hog House” and the soon-to-come Ronald McDonald House, out-of-town families now have an on-campus housing option so they can stay close by.
“It’s like being at a at a hotel, but there’s no cost, and they’re right here,” Nickens said. “So, they don’t have any struggles with transportation or trying to figure out how to get to the hospital.
“All of the changes we made were made in the best interest of the kids.”