APRN Scholars Program at Almost Home Kids

“There is a silent crisis in the United States due to the extreme shortage of specialists who care for children with medical complexity (CMC) specifically, and Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics (DBP) in general.  We are developing an innovative program to address this crucial workforce issue” 
Peter J. Smith, MD, MA, Almost Home Kids Medical Director – Chicago

Their Futures Depend on What You Do Today

Almost Home Kids (AHK), an affiliate of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, is announcing a new Scholars Program in Developmental & Behavioral Pediatric (DBP), Mental Health (MH) and Complex Care (CC) for Advance Practice Registered Nurses. Officially referred to as The Coleman Foundation Scholars Program in Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics for Advance Practice Registered Nurses.

Nationally there are more than 3 million children with special healthcare needs, growing at 5% annually, they are among the most rapidly growing subgroups of the pediatric population. In Illinois, there are currently 14,000 children who are medically complex. Advances in medicine and technology are allowing children who are medically complex to live longer lives which results in an increased need for supportive services from medical the community.

Parents and providers report that families face 9-12-month delays to see a sub-specialist in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics (DBP) for diagnosis and treatment interventions and the same is true for children and adolescents waiting to see a psychiatrist for mental health services. Many children with complex care needs are forced to be hospitalized longer than necessary, putting these children at higher risk for poor health outcomes due to limited availability of providers, such as Almost Home Kids.

Recognizing the need to increase the core group of medical professionals competently trained to care for these children, AHK has developed a new initiative with a goal of educating Advance Practice Registered Nurses (APRN’s) in the sub-specialties of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics, Mental Health, and Complex Care.  With advanced training, APRN’s will be able to diagnose, manage, co-manage, and refer as needed, children for developmental disabilities (including cerebral palsy, autism, and learning disabilities), medical complexities (including epilepsy, genetic abnormalities, neurological impairment, feeding and respiratory problems), and behavioral issues (including ADHD, anxiety, depression, and incontinence).

Here’s What You Can Expect

The APRN scholar will participate in an intensive one-year, 50 week, two days, 20 hours per week, training program partnering with  the University of Illinois at Chicago’s LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disorders), the Ohio State KySS (Keep Your Child Safe and Secure) online Mental Health Fellowship, ADOS-2 (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule) training at Advocate Illinois Masonic Developmental Center, DuPage Easter Seals, Division of Specialized Care for Children (DSCC)  and Professional Development Training at Erikson Institute. Program faculty including Anita D. Berry MSN, CNP, APN, CPMHS, APRN Scholars Program Director and Peter J. Smith MD. MA, and Ann B. Karch MD, Medical Directors.

Our Team

Anita Berry MSN, CNP, APN, PMHS
AHK Manager APRN Fellowship Program

Click here for Ms. Berry’s CV

Anita Berry has dedicated her career to pediatric nursing, working in several leading hospitals and outpatient facilities as a pediatric nurse practitioner. Currently Anita Directs the APRN Scholars Program in Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics, Mental Health and Complex Care. Prior to this role she worked at Advocate Children’s Hospital as the Director of the Healthy Steps for Young Children Program, where she educated providers and staff in primary care practices, Federally Qualified Health Centers, residency and nurse practitioner programs throughout the state of Illinois, on child development and mental health.

Anita is an accomplished lecturer and teacher having received several awards for her dedication to the families and the community, most recently including the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) 2016 Kelly Reed Advance Practice Community Impact Award for Excellence in the Community and Beyond, and Children’s Hospital of Illinois 2016 Robert D. Hart, M.D. Endowed Lectureship Speaker. Anita has served as editor for Pediatric Nurse Practitioner primary care textbooks, published in numerous peer reviewed journals, and has spoken professionally at multiple conferences.

Anita enjoys spending time with her husband Mark, her five grown children and their spouses, and her nine young grandchildren. Her education and career experiences are driven by her passion to help parents and children be the best they can be.

Peter J. Smith, MD, MA
AHK Chicago – Medical Director

Click here for Dr. Smith’s CV

The medical director for AHK Chicago is Peter J. Smith. Dr. Smith is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Chicago. Dr. Smith is also a faculty member of the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at the University of Chicago. Dr. Smith attended the University of Notre Dame for his undergraduate degree, Duke University for Medical School, and completed his Masters in Theology (Ethics) at Boston College.  He completed his general pediatrics residency at St. Louis Children’s Hospital (Washington University) and two fellowships at Boston Children’s Hospital (Harvard).  He is board certified in two subspecialties of pediatrics, Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (NDD) and Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics (DBP).

Dr. Smith’s direct clinical service has included inpatient care (he is former Chief of the Medical Staff at La Rabida Children’s Hospital), work in residential schools (he is Medical Director both at the Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School and at the Illinois Center for Rehabilitation and Education), and outpatient clinics (currently at Comer Children’s Hospital, the Erikson Institute, and at Easter Seals of DuPage and Fox Valley).  Both families and colleagues respect him as a hard-working and passionate advocate for children with complex medical needs.

Within the region, Dr. Smith has held several leadership positions.  He has served on multiple Committees of the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (ICAAP) related to children with complex medical concerns, and he chaired one of these committees, the Committee on Children with Disabilities.  He has previously served as Medical Director for the Child and Family Connections team in DuPage County (CFC#5).

Nationally, Dr. Smith has been elected as Chair of the Executive Committee of the Section of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics (SODBP) for the American Academy of Pediatrics. In addition, he has served on the Executive Committee for the Council on Children with Disabilities (COCWD) for the national AAP (as a liaison from the SODBP).  He also previously served on the Board of Directors for the American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) and is involved in developing national standards for the healthcare of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Dr. Smith is also a teacher and scholar. As a teacher, he has many roles. In one of these roles, he started and directed the first training program in the Midwest for pediatricians who want to become experts in the care of children with developmental and behavioral difficulties (a Fellowship in DBP).   He has also developed the medical education program (for medical students, residents, and fellows) at Almost Home Kids.  Dr. Smith’s scholarship has focused upon the ethics of care for children with special needs as well as the training of doctors to care for children with medical complexity.  He has authored multiple articles in scientific journals as well as several chapters in the textbooks used by specialists in this field. Dr. Smith is a frequent presenter at local, regional, and national scientific meetings as well as at formal educational programs for doctors.

Most importantly, Dr. Smith is a husband, father to four wonderful children, sibling to five brothers and one sister, and son to parents that taught & inspired him to serve others, especially children.

Ann B. Karch M.D.
AHK Chicago & Naperville – Associate Medical Director

Click here for Dr. Karch’s CV

Dr. Ann Karch Serves as Associate Medical Director for both Chicago and Naperville. Dr. Karch is a board certified general pediatrician with a special interest in children with developmental disabilities stemming from college summer work at Easter Seals Camp Wawbeek in Wisconsin. She has been a member of the AHK Medical Advisory Committee since 2012. Dr. Karch earned her medical degree from the University of Wisconsin. She completed a residency in pediatrics at the University of Chicago where she subsequently served as Chief Resident in Pediatrics.

Dr. Karch has worked as a pediatrician in private practice and has had several opportunities to work as a pediatrician with international medical teams. She has volunteered with teams in Bolivia, the Philippines, and Kenya (all with the Diocese of Joliet Partnership in Mission); and with Operation Smile in the Philippines. Ann and her husband, Gary, live in Glen Ellyn, where they raised three sons.

Career Benefits to Scholars

The DBP-APN Advanced Training Program will provide the scholar with varied clinical and educational opportunities to prepare them for autonomous practice. Upon completing this program, APRNs will have the depth, breadth, volume, and intensity of foundational knowledge coupled with appropriate clinical experience to independently manage children with the conditions served by DBP clinicians.  Graduates of this APRN Advanced Training Program will be well positioned to be thought leaders in the field.

Program Curriculum

Scholars will participate in case-based discussions and journal club. The scholar will be provided opportunities for the following during the Advanced Training Program:

  • understand the complex developmental processes of infants, children, adolescents and young adults, in the context of their families and communities
  • understand the biological, psychological, and social influences on development in the emotional, social, motor, language, and cognitive domains
  • understand the mechanisms for primary and secondary prevention of disorders in behavior and development
  • analyze pathophysiology for various disease processes
  • develop diagnoses, formulate treatment plans and evaluate patient response to treatment
  • utilize evidence-based practices in delivering quality, cost-effective care
  • educate patients and families about disease process and prevention
  • develop organizational skills vital to effectively managing patient caseloads
  • develop effective communication and presentation skills essential to work with an interdisciplinary team
  • develop an age-appropriate treatment plan for mental health problems based on biopsychosocial theories, evidenced-based standards of care, and practice guidelines, including differential diagnosis for mental health problems
  • demonstrate behaviors that reflect a commitment to continuous professional development, ethical practice, an understanding and sensitivity to diversity and a responsible attitude toward patients, profession and society
  • evaluate the relationships among access, cost, quality, and safety and their influence on health care
  • demonstrate critical thinking and diagnostic reasoning skills in clinical decision making

Scholars will receive a certificate of completion from Almost Home Kids as well as certifications from ADOS-2 training, the KySS Program, and LEND.

Scholars will not receive any compensation for participating in this program and must secure professional liability insurance with limits of at least $1,000,000 per occurrence, $3,000,000 aggregate to participate in clinical rotation at the various sites.