Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago has a reputation for some of the finest physicians and nurses anywhere. What many people may not realize is that the hospital is also renowned for its social workers , child life specialists , volunteers — and on occasion — jugglers and therapy dogs. These dedicated individuals work side by side with the medical and nursing staff to contribute to an atmosphere of healing for children and families.
Through the work of Family Services, where programs range from social work, pastoral care, and ParentWISE to child life play therapy groups and an interactive closed-circuit television station, Lurie Children’s continually demonstrates the value it places on care for the whole family. Family Services address the emotional, social and spiritual needs of the hospitalized child and his or her family. Among these are arts and recreation, tutoring, preparation for medical procedures, child-friendly care, family resources, culturally appropriate care, pastoral care, bereavement counseling and much more.
“Ultimately, Family Services at Lurie Children’s is about whatever families need,” says Don Camp, Assistant Vice-President Hospital and Family Centered Initiatives. “Each family has unique needs as they navigate the challenging process of a child’s illness or injury. We do our best to ensure that these needs are addressed.”
Although Family Services are integrated throughout the hospital facility, its metaphorical center emanates from the Family Life Center on the hospital’s 12th floor. Here, computers, games, toys, books and activities for children and adults are everywhere — creating a virtual wonderland of recreation within a state-of-the-art pediatric health care facility.
“The Family Life Center is amazing. It’s a beautiful setting where there is so much to do,” says Iren Hianik, mother of Natalie, 5 and Rachel, 7. “When you spend a lot of time at the hospital as we have, it’s great to have a place for children where they can just have fun. Natalie can go to get her mind off treatments and Rachel can enjoy the activities for patients’ siblings when she’s here.” Since infancy, Natalie has been treated for Treacher-Collins Syndrome, a cranio-facial disorder. Now, she also is treated for Diamond Blackfan Anemia, a blood disorder in which the body doesn’t produce red blood cells, and comes to the hospital once a month to receive blood transfusions.
Philanthropy makes it happen. Many of the resources that families like the Hianiks enjoy are the direct result of philanthropic contributions from individuals, corporations, foundations and other affiliated organizations. K.I.D.S.S. for Kids, which has raised more than $8 million for Family Services, is just one of the many dedicated organizations that helps to sustain this important component of care.
In addition to helping children and families play while in the hospital, Family Services often provides a critical complement to the clinical treatment that a child receives through services like the social work department.
“Clinical teams value the professional perspective that our services bring to the healing process,” says Camp. “They recognize that what we do is an important part of caring for families and aids in healing.”
For many children and family members, having the support of individuals outside of a direct care provider – whether that means offering a sympathetic ear or providing them with an arts and craft activity – can make a tremendous difference during a hospital stay.