Texas Children’s Hospital Goes Bigger

In her 14 years with the organization, Jill Pearsall has seen Texas Children’s Hospital expand its facilities for more patients and widen its reach in the Houston area

Jill Pearsall has always felt that only those who work within an organization can really understand the guts and the core of the company.

It was this mind-set and some fortuitous timing that helped her transition from working for an architectural firm to taking on an in-house role in facilities and design. Pearsall started out as a manager at Houston Methodist Hospital. Three years later, she joined Texas Children’s Hospital as assistant director and has since worked her way up to her current position of assistant vice president.

In April 2016, Pearsall hit her 14-year milestone with Texas Children’s Hospital. Looking back at countless projects, she says the execution of Vision 2010, a $1.5 billion initiative that was the largest expansion ever by an independent children’s hospital in the given time frame, was her biggest accomplishment to date. Pearsall remembers her initial reaction after the announcement was made back in 2006, and laughs as she recalls asking her boss, “How are we going to do this?” Nevertheless, through exceptional project management and constant communication, Vision 2010 was not only a success but completed under budget.

“You look at it as eating the elephant one bite at a time,” she says.

Since opening in 1954, Texas Children’s Hospital has added 577 beds to its system’s facilities. Rendering: FKP Architects
Since opening in 1954, Texas Children’s Hospital has added 577 beds to its system’s facilities. Rendering: FKP Architects

Vision 2010 consisted of building four separate components. The Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute, for example, is dedicated to helping find and develop treatments for neurological diseases. The second facility, the Pavilion for Women, provides medical services for women—particularly services for expectant mothers, starting before conception and continuing through delivery.

Another component of Vision 2010 was the vertical expansion of the Feigin Center. The expansion built eight additional floors to the existing 12-story center. The final piece of the ambitious project was the addition of the first suburban hospital designed for children to meet the growing need of the West Houston area.

Pearsall attributes the successful completion of the project to her team, which consists of nine project managers and 16 additional staff members.

JILL PEARSALL AVP, FACILITIES PLANNING & DEVELOPMENT
JILL PEARSALL AVP, FACILITIES PLANNING & DEVELOPMENT

“I often say to my project managers, ‘If you aren’t doing today what you need to be doing in 2–3 months, then you are behind schedule,’” she says. Prior to Pearsall joining the team, Texas Children’s Hospital outsourced much of its project management staff, which was one of her first assignments when she started. Pearsall dedicated the first five years to handpicking a project management department. She says having the right team in place is especially critical when dealing with accelerated growth like the kind Texas Children’s Hospital has experienced in the past several years.

“We’ve added about 2 million square feet since I got here,” she says. “Since I have been here, Texas Children’s has grown into a pretty robust healthcare system.”

That’s not just an insider’s opinion. U.S. News & World Report ranked Texas Children’s Hospital among the nation’s best children’s hospitals. In the past 10 years, Texas Children’s Hospital has treated nearly 1 million children.

The hospital first opened in Houston in 1954 with three floors and 106 beds, but the system has since grown to include 683 beds. Yet it hasn’t just grown on its original hospital grounds—it has since expanded into the Houston community. Immediately after wrapping up Vision 2010, Pearsall began strategic growth for another community campus. She says she’s noticed a trend in terms of shifting how healthcare is provided to individuals.

“In 2012, we opened our Pavilion for Women, which was a whole new business venture for Texas Children’s,” she says. “Through that women’s hospital, we have gone out into the community with smaller offices offering obstetrics care closer to home. We’ve grown quite a bit in the community as well as the main campus.”

“We run everything out of my office to let us keep our finger on the pulse and make sure everything is consistent.”

Despite the rapid expansion, she and her team still keep a close watch over every project for Texas Children’s Hospital.

“We have way more tentacles to our organization,” Pearsall says. “We run everything out of my office to let us keep our finger on the pulse and make sure everything is consistent.”

As far as future initiatives go, Pearsall is constantly thinking about how the changing healthcare industry will affect what will be on the agenda next. She has seen an uprising of community healthcare facilities and treating patients closer to their own homes. Nevertheless, predicting the future can be difficult when planning for projects beginning 8–10 years ahead of completion time. Her only advice?

“Keep looking ahead and anticipate what is happening,” she says.