UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital verified as first level one children’s surgery center in Iowa

The University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital received a level one children’s surgical center verification from the American College of Surgeons after years of work on the application.


Jerod Ringwald

The University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital looks down upon an empty street outside Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020.

Marandah Mangra-Dutcher, News Reporter

The University of Iowa’s Stead Family Children’s Hospital received a level one children’s surgical center verification from the American College of Surgeons in January. It is the only hospital in Iowa to have the verification.

Catherine Grant, American College of Surgeons’ children’s surgery program manager, wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan that with this verification, the Stead Family Children’s Hospital becomes a regional resource.

“[It] is a tertiary-care facility central to the children’s health care system,” she wrote. “This facility must have the capability of providing leadership and comprehensive care for all aspects of children’s surgical needs.”

With a central role in pediatrics, Grant wrote, there are certain responsibilities the facility must uphold:

  • Adequate depth of resources and expert employees
  • Acute-care for patients
  • The responsibility of providing leadership in education, research, and system planning in the hospital.

Grant wrote that level one centers also provide support for the families of patients in the facility by helping with travel burdens costs and providing psychological, spiritual, and social support.

Chelsey Pangburn, a nurse coordinator at the Stead Family Children’s Hospital, said in an interview that the designation allows surrounding hospitals to know the type of patients Stead Family Children’s Hospital can handle. The hospital can offer specific assistance with critical patients and diagnoses, she said.

Surgeon-in-Chief and Chair of Pediatric Surgery Joel Shilyansky said it took three years of conversation to begin the application process, and it is understandable that the hospital was the first to acquire the designation in the state.

“I think that our role as a university academic center is to provide that leadership within the community, provide care to children who come in, and be able to get somewhere else,” he said.

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Pangburn said the Stead Family Children’s Hospital started the application process in October 2019 when she was hired. Stead Family Children’s Hospital then opened its 350-370 question pre-review questionnaire in May 2020 which took nine months to complete.

“Most of them are essay form, along with 10 tables that detail not only the kinds of surgeries we provide and anesthesia we offer but also a pretty in-depth look at all of the physicians, ER doctors, surgeons, anesthesiologists who provide care to children,” she said.

Grant wrote that the surgery program provides an identity for the children’s services within these larger institutions and a quality framework to improve processes which leads to improved surgical outcomes for patients.

After the American College of Surgeons reviewed the application, it asked for a site visit, Pangburn said. The association completed a virtual site visit because of the COVID-19 pandemic on Sept. 23-24, 2021.

“We were sort of guinea pigs because they were just trialing this virtual process,” she said. “There’d been a couple that did it before us, but we were one of the first to have an all-virtual visit.”

Grant said the verification is not common.

“There are only around 250 children’s hospitals in America and many of these are children’s hospitals within adult hospitals,” she said.

The Stead Family Children’s Hospital is the first hospital in Iowa verified by the American College of Surgeons Children’s Surgery Verification program, Grant said.

Pangburn said the next steps are to maintain and meet the standards set by the American College of Surgeons.

“It’s just how quality improvement evolves and changes and keeps moving the bar a little bit higher, which is a good thing,” she said. “We all need to be striving to do things better, to make things safer and more streamlined for our patients.”

Rylee Wilson contributed to this report.

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