Upstate News

July 2, 2002
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

University Hospital Celebrates National Child Life Week July 8 to 12

University Hospital’s pediatric floors will be the site of a weeklong celebration beginning July 8 to commemorate National Child Life Week.

The special week highlights the work of child life specialists, a group of professionals who devote their days to ensuring that a child’s hospital stay is less stressful and as painless as possible.

“One of our most basic responsibilities is to protect the emotional integrity of children facing severe stress, and any hospitalization can certainly qualify as severe stress for a child,” said Margaret Nellis, a certified child life manager who directs University Hospital’s Child Life Program. University Hospital employs more child life specialists–five–than any other hospital in the region.

Below are some of the activities planned for National Child Life Week.

Pediatric inpatients will receive a free balloon Monday, July 8.

On Tuesday, July 9, University Health Care Center, located at 90 Presidential Plaza, will hold its annual Kindergarten Day. During the day, children will receive the requisite before-school physical exam as well as participate in a hand-washing clinic. Each patient will receive a book bag with school supplies.

Also on Tuesday, Mrs. McPuppet, a storyteller from Ithaca, will perform for patients at 1 p.m. in the 7B Conference Room at University Hospital.

On Wednesday, July 10, child life specialists will speak to a pre-school class at St. Patrick’s School, 210 Schuyler St., on what to expect when you visit the doctor. The presentation begins at 9: 15 a.m.

On Friday, July 12, an ice cream social for pediatric staff and patients will be held in 5342 University Hospital from 2:30 to 4 p.m.

Artwork of pediatric patients will be on display in the hospital lobby and on the 4th, 5th and 7th floors.

Child life specialists use specially made dolls to show children what will happen during surgical procedures or various treatments, such as chemotherapy. Child life specialists also accompany pediatric patients when they are moved off the pediatric floors for various procedures. “To have a child life specialist accompany the child on these trips lessens the child’s fear and uncertainty about what’s happening to them,” said child life specialist Janice Whitcombe.

In addition, child life specialists offer support to parents.

“The best advice I can give parents who are facing a hospital stay for their child, is to keep a diary or notebook of their child’s care,” Nellis said. “Write down everything that is told to you by doctors or nurses.”

Nellis said an up-to-date diary of a child’s medical care will be especially useful if the child has a chronic condition and will be in and out of hospitals with some frequency.

The other tip Nellis offers most parents is not to forget their other children. “The sick child gets all the attention and the healthy child becomes extremely jealous and begins to wish he or she was sick, too,” she said. “How siblings react to their brother’s or sister’s illness has a tremendous impact in the emotional health of the family, so we are as interested in their feelings and concerns as those of the sick child.”

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