Upstate News

March 13, 2006
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

University Hospital celebrates Child Life Month

SYRACUSE, N.Y.— An annual rite of spring at University Hospital is the celebration of March as National Child Life Month. This month, the week of March 12 will feature several special activities to honor and acknowledge the work of the hospital’s seven certified child life specialists.

On March 13 and 14, an informational display will be set up outside the second floor cafeteria, and plans are in the making for a pediatric carnival March 17 with games and prizes.

One of the week’s most favorite activities is the fashion-themed days when staff members are encouraged to wear a particular item each day. Here’s how it works:

On Monday, March 13, wear your favorite cartoon character. Scooby Doo, Mickey Mouse or Sponge Bob would all be appropriate. Tuesday, March 14, it’s Silly Sox, or Socks, Day. Pairs that don’t match are perfectly suited for this day. Wednesday, March 15, provides the opportunity to wear something that notes his or her favorite sports team. Renew the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry or show your support for the other local university by donning something orange. Thursday, March 16, is Orange Day, so keep your SU motif at the ready. And what color do you think is set for Friday, March 17? It’s the wearing of the green day. The fashion festive week ends Saturday, March 18, with a request that all sport buttons or pins.

All of the above are fun and it helps highlight the child life program, but child life work is serious business. Certified child life specialists are specially trained non-medical members of the health care team who help to ensure that a child’s hospital stay or visit to the doctor is as stress and pain free as possible.

University Hospital currently employs seven child life specialists, the most of any area hospital They are: Kara Judd-Litera, Sue Karl, Marsha Kernan, Regina Lozito, Margaret Nellis, Colleen Turner and, Janice Whitcombe

Some responsibilities include coordinating pre-admission tours for children, support and distraction during medical procedures, playroom activities, planning field trips or special events and hospital visits and advocating on behalf of parents and children. Child life specialists also use special dolls or other age appropriate tools to help patients understand how a particular procedure will be performed.

Margaret Nellis, a certified child life manager who directs University Hospital’s Child Life program, says a basic responsibility of a child life specialist is to protect the emotional well being of children during hospitalization. “We know a child would rather be at home outside playing with their friends than at the hospital,” Nellis said. “Therefore we want to create the most secure, friendly and welcoming environment possible.”

All of University Hospital’s child life specialists are certified by the Child Life Council. Certification for child life specialists was established in 1986 and helps standardize body of knowledge of child life specialists. It also demonstrates expertise in the field and professional commitment to the practice.

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