By ANDREW SHI
La Rabida Children’s Hospital, 6501 S. Promontory Dr., was ranked among the Top 20 Most Beautiful Hospitals in the US by Soliant Health, an American healthcare staffing company on July 20.
La Rabida, which provides quality specialized care to over 9,000 children and families per year, is the only Chicago hospital to make the list. La Rabida entered the contest and a quarter-million voters determined the ranking.
“We’re very proud and humbled to make Soliant Health’s 2018 Most Beautiful Hospitals list,” said La Rabida CEO and President Brenda Wolf in a statement. “The beauty of La Rabida comes from our commitment of wanting kids to feel like kids when they come through our doors; the child-friendly facilities, hospital grounds and staff speak to that commitment.”
She said, “Knowing this designation comes from the general public is really gratifying; we appreciate that people from all over the country recognize that La Rabida is a really special and beautiful place.”
La Rabida’s main campus, situated on a peninsula, faces Jackson Park Harbor with its back to the lakeshore, where the Chicago skyline is visible. The building is modeled after the Spanish Government’s 1893 Chicago World’s Fair exhibition hall, which itself was a replica of the Monastery La Rabida in Andalucia, Spain. The exhibition hall was donated to the City of Chicago, becoming a sanitarium, and has been serving children since 1896.
The nautical theme, which incorporates wave patterns and representations of sea life, begins at the main entrance and continues throughout the hospital.
The hospital’s rehabilitation amenities include an aquatic therapy pool and a rehab gym, which rewards young patients with views of the Lake. Staff members use the gym’s toys and state-of-the-art equipment to turn therapy into engaging games. Kids like Dennis (last name withheld), who is part of the outpatient program, can shoot hoops on the mini-basketball court with rehab aides like Crystle Grinen.
La Rabida’s second floor accommodates the S.S. La Rabida, the cruise ship-style inpatient unit. A rotunda connects the north and south “decks,” which have been remodeled to give every child their own room. Each of the 34 “cabins” has a view of the water.
The Child Life Pavilion annex, hanging over Lake Michigan, is a “clinic-free” space where kids can “come just to play.” Just off the Pavilion is the newly unveiled, grant-funded therapy kitchen, a kitchen and dining area adapted for children with disabilities that can be used for occupational, physical and speech therapy.
Clouds hang from the ceiling of the airy second-floor waiting area, which houses the hospital’s own pharmacy and overlooks the outpatient reception. The outpatient reception area has seating for families and is framed by floor-to-ceiling windows with unobstructed vistas of Lake Michigan.
The outdoor outpatient reception area and the shady playground-style healing garden, where the Chicago White Sox recently led a batting practice for patients, is a sanctuary for families and patients.
The hospital’s roof provides a habitat for wild geese, and every year, hospital personnel help set the newly hatched goslings down.
Lauren Clennon, a communications specialist with five years of healthcare experience, said being by the lakeside adds to the therapeutic value for kids and lends itself really well to the healing process.
The La Rabida staff are affectionately known as the “crew.” “I’ve worked here for 6 months,” said Clennon. “Every single person is all in to the [hospital’s] mission.”
La Rabida is a safety-net hospital and Medicaid covers many expenses. Care that is not covered but is still a fundamental part of wellness for children is provided with the generous support of volunteers, grants and donors.
Clennon said what makes La Rabida so special is that “a cornerstone of admission is supporting not just kids but also families.”
She said, “Just being here in the morning, watching the sun come up, it’s a beautiful place to work.”
La Rabida Children’s Hospital will hold its third annual Back-to-School Dance for patients on Aug. 24.
For more information, visit La Rabida’s website: www.larabida.org.