16 Sep 2017 Room to grow: Central Arkansas Pediatrics opens new clinic
by Sonja J. Keith
Mike Kemp photos
Central Arkansas Pediatrics has grown considerably since it opened in 2000, prompting the need for a bigger facility to meet the needs of local children.
Drs. Sher and Jeff Craig opened their first practice, which had about 2,200 square feet, in March 2000 on Dave Ward Drive. By 2002, they found themselves needing more space and doubled the Dave Ward location to about 4,400 square feet. The new facility, which opened about a year ago, is about 13,500 square feet and located at 3010 Fountain Drive in West Conway.
“We have expanded so much,” said Leslie Burrows, clinic administrator. “We almost tripled space. It’s nice having room to grow.”
The new, bigger clinic provided an opportunity to add staff. CAP has 24 employees, including three pediatricians and five nurse practitioners. The clinic also added a radiology technologist to man the facility’s new X-ray equipment.
The additional staff and space have made it possible to adjust scheduling to better serve families, according to Leslie. “It’s been nice to meet the needs of our families,” she said. “This building has helped us to do that with the extra room.”
Leslie noted that two staff members also speak Spanish, a factor in an increase in the number of Hispanic families served by the clinic.
The property for the new clinic was purchased in September 2014, but the collection of ideas for the new facility began years prior. “We put a lot of thought in to it,” Leslie said, adding that as staff would visit other offices, they would make notes for the new clinic. Staff also spoke with colleagues to get their suggestions. “We knew for years we were going to build so we kept a running list of ideas,” said Dr. Jeff.
Keith Miller of Maumelle was the architect and NBMC was the general contractor.
The new clinic has stained concrete throughout, with the clinic’s signature handprints from their logo greeting patients in the foyer. “That took a lot of work,” said Dr. Sher. There is also a covered drive-thru, providing a convenient way to drop off and pick up, out of the weather.
Some of the features of the new clinic, designed with children and their parents in mind, include:
Two large waiting rooms, each equipped with a room for nursing mothers to use. “We promote breastfeeding, but at our last place, we didn’t have a good place for mothers to breastfeed in privacy,” Dr. Sher said. There are also special UV lights in both rooms and throughout the clinic to help kill germs. “In addition to our UV lights, the air handling system has a silver lining — literally,” said Dr. Jeff. “Silver is also antibacterial, so having it as part of an air system helps to provide a healthier environment in which to provide care.”
A lab separate from the staff workroom, which is large enough for all providers and staff to have their own desk space, creating a better workflow. It also houses the library and a designated nurse call-back center.
Two large procedure rooms where children can receive more in-depth treatment, like an IV, if needed.
A large, custom-built reception area.
A larger, secure area for the storage of clinic records.
A safe room in the event of a tornado.
Dr. Sher said that while a lot of thought was given to patient areas, attention was also focused on the needs of staff. “We were thinking not only of our patients but our employees,” she said. “This becomes a home away from home for them.”
The new clinic is equipped with a kitchen facility so employees can prepare their meals on-site, which Dr. Sher says promotes a healthy lifestyle. It is large enough and set-up to facilitate large meetings and trainings. There is also a secluded area for staff to sit outside. “We made it as easy as possible to have employees work here,” she said. “It’s why we have employees celebrating double-digit anniversaries.”
A special feature in the clinic is the new, custom-made exam tables. While the building was under construction, the Craigs decided to design their own exam tables and came up with an idea to have them painted to resemble vehicles children can see every day — from a fire truck and train to a school bus and ice cream truck. Mark and Keith Williams built the exam tables and Dr. Jeff painted them.
Dr. Sher pointed out that the exam tables are designed to be fun for children but they also have an important safety feature – a pullout area to extend the length with a lower section that conceals receptacles for trash and hazardous waste.
REACH OUT AND READ
The new clinic has provided added space to better accommodate the clinic’s Reach Out and Read program. “We’ve been able to purchase more books to give out at wellness visits,” Leslie said.
CAP, which has participated in the national program since 2011, gives a free book to children ages 6 months to 5 years. Some books are printed in Spanish.
“There are nine books total that children can receive,” Leslie said. “For some kids, this may be the first book they receive.”
According to Dr. Sher, research has shown that promoting literacy when children are young has a positive impact throughout a lifetime. “Statistics show that school readiness and success are tied to a love of books and language.” She said children who are too young to read can still point to pictures and create their own story. “Every time they come in for a well child visit, we talk to the parent about the importance of reading,” she said. “We’re trying to develop language skills and a love for books.”
The clinic became aware of the program when the Craig’s daughter, Bailey, competed in a pageant and her platform promoted literacy. The clinic applied to participate, underwent training and received a grant from Target the first year to initiate the program. “I think it’s one of the best things we have to offer,” Dr. Sher said.
Leslie pointed out that while some children like stickers when they go to see the doctor, a book can have a long-term effect. “This is something that will last them more than 30 minutes.”
Central Arkansas Pediatrics is the only children’s clinic in Faulkner County to participate in the program. “It’s a financial commitment,” Dr. Sher said. “We buy the books and give them away. It’s a program the families really like.”
With additional space and staff, the pediatric office has also expanded its services. CAP recently started a weight management clinic and a headache clinic. Katelin Whiddon, APRN, provides services in the weight management clinic and Kellie Bishop, APRN, provides services in the headache clinic.
“If our providers identify a patient who needs additional services related to weight management or chronic headaches/migraines, they will refer the patient to our in-house clinics,” said Leslie. “Katelin and Kellie are teamed up with a specific nurse for these clinics. The duo works together with the patient and their family to identify goals, treatment options and a workable plan. The appointment times are significantly longer to allow appropriate education and discussion for these chronic conditions. These in-house clinics allow our patients to receive more specialized services within their medical home."
Leslie said that patient compliance, which results in success, is typically greater with in-house clinics than with those referred to outpatient specialty clinics in Little Rock. “Some of this is simply attributed to not having to drive to Little Rock. Within the weight management clinic, patients are just coming to the clinic where they are seen for everyday illnesses and wellness visits. Hopefully, this will assist in eliminating the stigma of needing weight management services.”
In addition, Sherrie Smith, APRN, will manage the services provided in-house for an allergy and asthma clinic, which will launch this fall. “We also hope to expand to offer more behavioral health services very soon,” Leslie said.
The move from the previous clinic to the new location was no small feat and was orchestrated like a military maneuver. The clinic closed around 3:30 p.m. on a Friday and opened at the new location at 8 a.m. the following Monday.
The moving process was conducted with an “army of volunteers,” according to Dr. Sher, including participants in the JROTC program at Conway High School. “They are hard workers and are so efficient,” she said. Members from their church small group also pitched in to make sure they were ready to open that first day.
A special open house is in the works at the new clinic, with current and former patients as well as the community invited to attend.
“The new facility means we still have room to grow,” said Dr. Jeff. “We are better able to see patients because we are no longer in a constant traffic jam.”