Sacred Ground: The Johns Hopkins PICU

Nace and Lefkowitz

Pediatric nurses Laura Lefkowitz and Tricia Nace pay tribute to Hopkins' PICU in Sacred Ground, published in January.

As Hopkins Children’s prepares to move into the new Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children’s Center, Tricia Nace, R.N., and Laura Lefkowitz, R.N., set out to capture and honor the sacred ground that has been its pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). The PICU’s legacy book, Sacred Ground – A Tribute: Johns Hopkins Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, is a bridge to the future.

“This is not just a building,” says Nace, of the current Children’s Medical and Surgical Center (CMSC) at Johns Hopkins. “The PICU is not just a physical space. Many of the children we’ve cared for over the years have been healed here, many have died here. We know what this place means to their families. We know what it has meant to us. This is sacred ground. This is what we wanted to honor.”

Two years in the making, Sacred Ground was published in January 2012 by Johns Hopkins’ Department of Pediatrics. In the book of photographs and first-person narratives, dozens of Hopkins faculty and staff pay tribute to the PICU and share their experiences there.

The new PICU awaiting them in Bloomberg Children’s Center is vastly larger. Forty new nurses have been hired to help staff it. Every room is private. But the spirit that is today’s PICU, and its memory, will be among the things its faculty and staff will carry with them. In capturing the memories of the current unit, and honoring its past, Nace and Lefkowitz, and their colleagues, pay tribute to the place and all who have built there camaraderie of astounding proportions.

A move to new ground is not a novel occurrence for the PICU. Its boundaries and annex’s have shifted and burgeoned over the years in CMSC, built in 1964. In the late 1970s, newly hired pediatric anesthesiologist Mark Rodgers set out to transform the PICU from one of the last places the sickest children would even go in CMSC to one that instilled and offered hope. “He gave identity to the place that went far beyond a half floor with respirators and dying children,” says Hopkins Children's Director George Dover, M.D.

“It’s not the physical space, but the families, nurses, physicians, and staff who comprise the PICU’s sacred ground,” he writes in Sacred Ground. “ That is why when we leave the CMSC and move the PICU into The Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children’s Center in April 2012, sacred ground will still be with us.”

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