The University of Chicago Medicine - Comer Children's Hospital

Department of Pediatrics 2017 Annual Report

Comer Children's Hospital Inside Comer Children’s

We offer care for children with common as well as the most complex medical problems.

  • Our state-of-the-art hospital includes a 172-bed acute care facility.
  • Outpatient care is provided at Comer Children's, 15 offsite locations, and the pediatric emergency department -- the only level 1 trauma center on Chicago's South Side.
  • The Radiology Department's goal is to achieve the most accurate diagnosis using the least invasive method and the lowest possible radiation.
  • 400 highly trained nurses provide around-the-clock assessments and care.
  • Child Life specialists customize care to every hospitalized child's developmental and psychosocial needs.


Terrie Williams, patient Amari Miles, Destiny Ellis, Aubrey and Kirby Miles

Child-friendly inpatient rooms feature comfortable sleeping accommodations for parents, art to disguise medical equipment, a wireless call system that reduces overhead noise, and a room-service approach for ordering meals. Each of the floors has poetry-inspired art, creating an atmosphere of hope and healing.

Comer Children’s cares for critically ill and injured children in its technologically advanced pediatric intensive care unit. This 30-bed facility is fully equipped to treat children with multiple traumas, complex medical problems and conditions requiring major surgery, including cardiac, transplant and neurosurgery.

Designated tertiary care (Level III) beds in the neonatal intensive care unit and the convalescent (Level II) beds in our transitional care unit provide premature and critically ill infants with the most advanced medical care and life support systems.

For families whose children are being treated at Comer Children’s, the Ronald McDonald House provides a “home away from home” just a short distance from the hospital. A limited number of family sleep rooms are also available inside Comer Children’s.

When UChicago Medicine researchers found that 32% of caregivers were not getting enough to eat during their child’s hospital stay, a group of medical students, staff and faculty founded the Feed 1st program. Pantries stocked with food from the Greater Chicago Food Depository are located throughout Comer Children’s. There are no requirements to receive food or limits on how much food families may take. 

  • 30 ICU beds

  • 5 OR suites

  • 71 Level III NICU beds



Jackie Miller, RN, with patient Nia Staggers

To care for children closer to home, Comer Children’s offers clinics throughout Chicago’s south side, west and south suburbs, and northwestern Indiana. Our newest offsite location is Orland Park, where specialists in cardiology, dermatology, gastroenterology, hematology/oncology, neurology, pulmonary medicine, surgery and urology provide expert care for patients and their families.

The Comer Center for Children and Specialty Care serves as the main outpatient facility for our pediatric patients. Located in Comer Children’s, the ambulatory center features exam rooms for most pediatric specialties, labs, radiology, a day treatment room, a special procedures area, and infusion suite, and cardiac and neurologic testing areas.

Located on the first floor is the only Level I pediatric trauma center on the south side of Chicago. The pediatric emergency department offers the latest diagnostic and treatment equipment for the care of acutely ill or injured children or teens. The University of Chicago’s Aeromedical Network, or UCAN, transports many of these children to Comer Children’s. UCAN is a specially equipped helicopter that is staffed by a dedicated team of trained flight nurses, flight physicians, EMS pilots, and communication specialists.

  • 15 Comer Children’s offsite locations



Hilda Rodriguez, RN, with radiology machine in NICU

Everyone is talking about reducing radiation dose

To reduce radiation exposure for even the tiniest patients, highly trained pediatric radiologists at Comer Children’s use the most advanced child-size equipment for X-rays, fluoroscopy, ultrasound, CT and MRI.

“Our NICU patients often need many imaging studies, so we want to ensure they are receiving the smallest possible radiation dose that yields diagnostic information,” says Kate Feinstein, MD, who leads a team of three pediatric radiologists and a neuroradiologist.

This past year, she and her colleagues developed thickness-based techniques for portable abdomen radiography using data collected on 800 exams over a four-month period at Comer Children’s. Until now, default pediatric protocols on many digital radiography systems were configured based on patient age, not patient size, which is the principal determinant of proper imaging technique. Feinstein believes that transitioning to these new thickness-based techniques can help reduce patient overexposure to radiation, inadequate image quality and repeated examinations.

In another study, pediatric radiologists assessed the effect of comfort pads and support trays on detector entrance exposure and image quality for neonatal radiography. These structures were found to attenuate the primary X-ray beam by 6 to 15 percent. The comfort pads and support trays decreased the amount of radiation arriving at the detector and increased the noise.

The team’s conclusion: By placing the image detector directly under the patient and changing the exposure factors accordingly, the dose to the patient is significantly decreased, while the image quality is enhanced.

  • 40,000 imaging studies this year


Advanced Practice Nurses

Patient Annesti Elsmasri with Kelly Kramer, RN, MSN, CPON, CPNP

APNs help deliver better pediatric care

Comer Children’s care team members include 400 nurses who provide around-the-clock assessments and care. Highly specialized in complex care, our 35 advanced practice nurses (APNs) are also researchers, educators on the latest standards of care delivery, and leaders in policy at the institutional and national levels.

Kelly Kramer, RN, MSN, CPON, CPNP, for example, leads a team that has developed patient and family education resources for newly diagnosed oncology patients at Comer Children’s. She and her colleagues surveyed health care professionals to determine which content is essential during and immediately following chemotherapy treatment. Next, they will study patient/family perceptions of educational priorities. In early 2018, nurses will begin using a checklist detailing what they need to teach and when. 

“Families have a lot of anxiety and trouble retaining all the medical information they are given when their children are first diagnosed and treatment begins," Kramer says. "Our new educational tools will empower caregivers to become more active, confident participants in their child’s care, as evidenced by fewer visits to their medical team and the emergency room, reduced phone calls regarding home medication regimen, and better outcomes." 

  • 400 nurses

  • 35 advanced practice nurses


Child Life

Patient Kaila Gonzalez with Kaylee O'Brien, MA, CCLS, and Erin O'Keefe

Our Child Life team cares for every inpatient. 

Most hospitals refer only some pediatric patients to Child Life specialists. Here at Comer Children’s, Child Life specialists see every hospitalized child to help identify his or her particular developmental and psychosocial needs and customize care accordingly. “We want to help our patients achieve mastery over their health care experience,” says Jennie Ott, MS, CCLS, director of Child Life and Family Education.

Our caring, compassionate Child Life specialists work with patients and their families, along with health care teams, to help children understand their medical conditions. We use a wide range of medical dolls, teaching tools and resources to help ease stress and prepare each child for procedures, surgeries and treatments.

Special therapeutic programs, including art, music and pet therapy, cooking and medical bingo, are just a few of the ways children and teens are allowed to express their fears and concerns in a safe and supportive environment. The Child Life program also hosts special events such as holiday celebrations and performances by magicians and storytellers to entertain and help distract young patients from the daily hospital routine.

Since we know that children grow and learn through play, Comer Children’s offers many safe, fun-filled places of refuge where no medical procedures are performed. On the first floor of Comer Children’s, 3,000 square feet are devoted to a dynamic central playroom for young children, a teen room and a family resource library. Additional play spaces are located near patients’ rooms and within the pediatric intensive care unit and pre-op/recovery area.

We understand that teens and young adults have unique personal, emotional and medical challenges when facing a cancer diagnosis. Through our Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology Program, we help these patients take an active role in their care and feel engaged during every step of the journey.

  • 13 Child Life specialists

  • 1 art therapist

  • 1 music therapist

  • 1 Child Life assistant

  • 2 Child Life interns

  • 1 Chicago Public School teacher