Christine Boyce – Director of the Pediatric Special Care Unit, Milwaukee Center for Independence

With advances in medical technology and health care,  more children are surviving medical traumas that in the past would have been fatal.

However, the flip side to that coin, according to Christine Boyce, director of the Pediatric Special Care Unit at the Milwaukee Center for Independence, is that our society provides few resources for them once their health is stabilized.

“That’s the sad part, and that was one of my driving forces for going forward with the state to recognize a need for a facility such as the Pediatric Special Care Unit at the Milwaukee Center for Independence,” she said.

An eight-year process has finally come to fruition for Boyce, who last July opened the doors of the unit, which is the first and only facility to be Medicaid-certified, child-care licensed and Joint-Commission accredited.

There are 19 children enrolled in the Pediatric Special Care Unit, which provides skilled comprehensive nursing and therapeutic care to children with special care needs. For the past 20 years, Boyce has been an advocate for children with special health care needs and was an integral part in bringing vital care to kids in their community.

“Because of their health issues, they often spend a lot of time at hospitals, which they begin to associate with discomfort and pain,” she said. “It creates anxiety in children. Here, they get the care they need, and they also can enjoy just being kids.”

Boyce, who previously worked as a nurse at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, said the center follows through on a physician’s plan of treatment and therapy for the children while integrating their plan into the child’s day of activities.

“We’ll do range-of-motion exercises during story time, they’ll turn pages or stand while coloring, that type of thing,” she said.

Randy Fare, vice president at the Milwaukee Center for Independence, nominated Boyce for the Health Care Heroes Award.

“This Pediatric Special Care Unit is more than a job for Christine. It’s her personal mission in life,” said Fare, who deemed Boyce’s greatest accomplishment as making sure children with very profound special needs have a chance just to be kids.

“She makes sure they have a chance to play with other children in the program. They go on outings to the zoo, visit their adopted grandparents in the older adult program, they do art and sing,” said Fare. “Parents feel confident and trusting about leaving their kids in her care while they go to work or just need some time for themselves.”

Prior to Boyce submitting a proposal to the Wisconsin Health and Family Services division, there had been no protocol through Medicaid for such a center outside a hospital setting. Through an eight-year process, Boyce made presentations, answered concerns and questions raised by various government agencies. She lobbied elected representatives to get state approval for the center. 

“Ultimately, they recognized there was a great need for this type of a center, and protocol through Medicaid was developed,” said Boyce, who at age 55 says she has found her dream job.

The Pediatric Special Care Unit center opened in July 2006. The center was expanded in June 2007.

“I do what I do because it’s my passion,” Boyce said. “If I expect my staff to do something with a child, with a family, with a group of children, I have to be able to do that too and I want to demonstrate that to them. I’ve been honored to be part of many different families, help them through different situations, be involved in their lives and make a little bit of a difference.”

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