Upstate News

March 13, 2008
Doretta Royer 315 464-4833

Child Life Month spotlights key players in creating stress-free hospitalization for kids

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — “Lunch and Learn” programs, activities for pediatric patients, media interviews, informational displays and participation in a high school career day are some of the ways that University Hospital is celebrating National Child Life Month. The celebration honors and acknowledges the work of the hospital’s eight-member team of certified child life specialists.

Child life specialists are child development experts who promote effective coping through play, preparation, education and self-expression activities for children and their family members who face challenging experiences, particularly those related to healthcare and hospitalization. They play a vital role in educating caregivers, administrators and the general public about the needs of children under stress.

Through patient education, University Hospital’s child life specialists make a hospital stay or doctor’s visit a positive experience for the child and their family. “When the child and the family is prepared and understands what to expect during a visit or hospitalization, they are less apt to be anxious about the experience,” said Margaret Nellis, manager of University Hospital’s Child Life program.

In addition to Nellis, University Hospital’s child life specialists are Kara Judd-Litera, Sue Karl, Marsha Kernan, Regina Lozito, Colleen Baish, Janice Whitcombe and Brittany Metcalf.

Their day-to-day responsibilities include coordinating pre-admission tours, offering support and distraction during medical procedures, playroom activities and other special events, serving as advocates on behalf of families and children of all ages and developing and implementing staff education initiatives.

One educational initiative developed by Judd-Litera has resulted in an educational curriculum, available to the SUNY Upstate community through Blackboard, that covers psychosocial topics in children’s healthcare.

Another initiative being developed by Baish is an evidence-based journal club for University Hospital’s healthcare professionals of all disciplines. The journal will be a bi-monthly colloquium that focuses on current research, theory and practice in the field of child life/psychosocial topics in pediatrics.

University Hospital’s pediatric patients, their families and the staff from the Pediatrics Department can add to Child Life Month festivities by wearing: something orange to show Syracuse University team spirit March 5 (Orange Day); a favorite team apparel March 12 (Sports Day); clothing featuring a favorite cartoon character March 19 (Cartoon Day); and Hawaiian-themed clothes March 26 (Aloha Day).

Other child life activities planned include “Making Music With Music Therapist Miranda” program during the week of March 17; a performance by The Zuchinni Brothers who host an internationally syndicated weekly radio show March 19, at 10:30 a.m. in Cafe 750; and a “Zoo To You” program March 27, at 1 p.m. in the 4C conference room in University Hospital.

Upcoming “Lunch and Learn” programs, to be held from noon to 1 p.m. in 1403 University Hospital, include: March 20’s session on “Treatments and Procedures: Supporting Patients and Families,” a panel discussion facilitated by Sue Karl, C.C.L.S.

A staff education program for pediatric interns and residents will be held March 27, at 8 a.m. in the Pediatric Resident Conference Room, 5th Floor University Hospital. The presentation titled, “Alleviating Pain and Anxiety in the Pediatric Emergency Department,” will be presented by Colleen Baish, C.C.L.S., M.ED., Steve Olson, R.N., B.S.N., and Jennifer Mackey, M.D.

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