On-site counseling, walk-in appointments among services that take care to a higher level
Last spring, Jessica had felt the greatest joy of her life: carrying newborn daughter Kayla through the front door of her home for the first time. The cheers and hugs of family greeted them on the other side. But just three months later, Jessica began experiencing far different emotions — telltale signs of postpartum depression.
Fortunately, she’s meeting with a counselor regularly and getting help. And it was available in an unlikely place: in the office of Kayla’s pediatrician at Allegheny Health Network’s (AHN’s) Jefferson Hospital.
Offering on-site counseling for families is just one way that the AHN pediatric practice, operated by Pediatric Alliance Jefferson Hills, offers a healthcare experience that goes beyond what patients expect.
Conveniently located on the Jefferson Hospital campus, the practice provides a breadth of service that offers children and families routine and complex care plus more.
That includes pediatric primary care, nutrition/weight management, and care for special needs and complex conditions like asthma. Baseline concussion testing and sports medicine services are also available.
Under the guidance of Dr. Nathan Millard, Dr. Damian Ternullo, and physician assistant Sara DePierre, the practice cares for patients up to age 21.
“We specialize in well-baby checkups, back-to-school immunizations, and everything kids need to stay healthy as they grow and develop,” DePierre says. “But we also look at the whole family. And we try to meet any needs that extend beyond pediatric care and may need wider attention.”
Bridging gaps to counseling support
In a situation like Jessica’s, the pediatrician could check for postpartum depression and simply refer mothers to their obstetricians or to a therapist’s office for help. But the AHN pediatric practice has a dedicated counseling room in its Jefferson Hospital location where mothers can talk to certified counselors — adding convenience and getting them help faster.
The counseling room offers a warm, comfortable setting with a couch, table, and chairs. Games and toys are available for children.
“Moms can literally go from their baby’s well visit down the hall to see a counselor,” DePierre says. “As a home base for kids and families, we think it’s important to integrate these supportive services and offer them under one roof.”
Mothers with more intensive cases of perinatal or postpartum depression may need specialized care. And they can be connected to AHN Women’s Behavioral Health at West Penn Hospital in Bloomfield for help and support.
Offering convenience, hospital connection
Families have busy lives juggling work, school, and kids’ activities. Fitting in medical appointments can be challenging if a doctor’s office has limited hours, whether kids need a regular checkup or help in treating a sprained ankle.
“That’s why we offer same-day sick appointments, and we also take walk-in appointments from 8 to 9 a.m.,” says Lori Jones, a medical assistant and the practice’s office manager.
To accommodate working parents and students, the office is open until 7 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays and from 8 a.m. to noon on selected Saturdays. The practice also has in-house lab and imaging services.”We can pick up the phone and get kids in for blood draws or scans quickly,” Jones says. “They don’t have to make another trip or go somewhere else another day for those services.”
The direct connection to Jefferson Hospital offers extended support to patients, including additional imaging and lab services and emergency room access, another safety net for families.
In turn, Pediatric Alliance physicians support Jefferson Hospital’s birthing unit by making regular rounds to visit moms and newborns. “If there’s ever a problem aside from their regular rounds, Dr. Ternullo or Dr. Millard come right away,” says Dr. David A. Logan, the unit’s medical director. “Neonatal pediatric care is so well covered here at Jefferson Hospital. Between Pediatric Alliance and the hospital, children
and families get care from A to Z.”
Nurturing moms and newborns
Breastfeeding education is another service most parents wouldn’t expect to receive at a pediatrician’s office. But the AHN practice offers one-on-one education for new moms and free monthly breastfeeding classes for groups.
A certified lactation consultant, DePierre teaches those classes. She sees many mothers who are struggling with breastfeeding.
“They’re crying when we see them because breastfeeding can be difficult and stressful,” DePierre says. “They’re up all night. They’re not sleeping. They may feel the problem begins and ends with them. It becomes a personal hardship.”
But when she sees the breastfeeding relationship blossom between mom and baby, DePierre sees the value of these extra efforts. “When it gets easier for mom, and you see the baby gaining weight, it’s the most rewarding experience for me,” she says. “Moms are so thankful, and you know you’ve helped them succeed at something they really want to do well.
“This is just one more way we offer a complete care experience for families,” DePierre says. “Quality healthcare is about much more than just treating symptoms.”
To make a same-day appointment with AHN pediatrics at Pediatric Alliance Jefferson Hills, call 412-460-8111.