The world-class pediatric burn program at Shriners Children’s Northern California is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Since 1997, the program has been caring for children up to age 18 with burn injuries of every size and severity. Shriners Children’s Northern California has been providing groundbreaking care, as burn programs of its scope and depth are uncommon.
Of all Shriners Children’s Hospitals nationwide, only four facilities offer burn care programs. This flagship Sacramento location is unique as the only hospital that offers all of the other Shriners Children’s specialties. The Sacramento site sees patients from across western North America and from places far across the Pacific Ocean. Dr. Tina Palmieri, M.D., one of only three women to serve as president of the American Burn Association, says,“We see more than 5,000 visits per year in our outpatient clinics and admit more than 250 children with burn injuries to our hospital every year. We care for their acute burn injury then follow up with them through age 18 when they graduate from our care. Patients and their families come from all walks of life because our mission is caring for the child and supporting their families.”
In addition to her Shriners Children’s position of assistant chief of burns, Palmieri is also a professor and the burn division chief and director of the Firefighters Burn Institute Burn Center at UC Davis. She’s one of several dedicated women helping to lead the Shriners Children’s Northern California burn program into the future along with Kathleen Romanowski, M.D.; Ingrid Parry, MS, PT, BT-C; Sally Martens, MSN, FNP-C; Robyn Bartlett, BSN, RN; and Victoria Owens, MSN, FNP-C.
Romanowski is a burn surgeon at Shriners Children’s Northern California and associate professor at the UC Davis School of Medicine. Parry, a physical therapist, will be the first non-physician president of the American Burn Association, the leading association for burn care in the U.S. Bartlett, intensive care unit nurse manager, oversees all burn patients’ specialty pediatric care. Nurse practitioners Martens and Owens are the glue that binds the program together according to Palmieri, who says, “All of these women are great people who define the Shriners Children’s spirit.”
Burn care is a highly focused specialty that’s not regularly taught in medical school, yet every year thousands of children suffer burn injuries. “There’s a void in knowing how to care for children with burns, but Shriners Children’s fills that void,” Palmieri says. “We provide burn care and education, and are developing standards for how burn care should be delivered for the best outcomes. Through our education and research, we help other burn centers improve their quality of care, too.”
Shriners Children’s physicians and staff have battled through the COVID-19 pandemic, overcoming staff shortages and supply chain challenges, which are both significant because burn care requires many resources such as medications and dressings and intensive, hands-on care. “I’m proud of this institution for having continued to keep the patient in the center of care and creating a safe environment for patients and staff,” Palmieri says. Though challenging, the pandemic helped advance telehealth methods, extending the Shriners Children’s reach to patients who can’t make the trip to Sacramento. Through this technology, the team continues to fulfill its mission locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, working remotely with medical professionals worldwide.“It’s been 25 years of dedication to excellence and dedication to patients,” Palmieri says. “I think we have the best jobs in the world — yes, our patients have burn injuries, but we get to envision what they can become and help them get there.”