BY ANNE CHECKOSKY
Administrators at Palms West Hospital feel there’s a lack of local health programming aimed at the entire family. That’s why they launched the first Snack & Learn program in August, to coincide with the beginning of the new school year.
“It’s an educational program aimed at the entire family,” explained Lori Tolchinsky, the hospital’s marketing director.
Snack & Learn is an after-school program that aims to educate both parents and children on a wide range of topics. While parents listen to presentations from on-site hospital personnel, children are also engaging in presentations on similar topics in a way that’s age-appropriate, Tolchinsky said.
For example, to kick off the series on Aug. 27, the theme for children was “teddy bear clinic.” Children learned how to care for their teddy bears by listening to their heartbeats with stethoscopes and taking their blood pressure. At the same time, parents were listening to pediatrician Dr. Lily Wiedrich discuss health, nutrition and exercise.
About 10 families participated, and Tolchinsky hopes the program will grow considerably. It’s free and open to the public, and light refreshments are served. The August program took place in the late afternoon, but the time is not set in stone. Administrators will adjust to allow for the greatest number of participants, she said.
The next Snack & Learn will be held in November, with a date and time to be announced. The tentative theme is health, nutrition and diabetes, Tolchinsky said.
In addition to providing families with something productive and constructive to do, one underlying goal of the program is to introduce children to the hospital setting.
“If we invite them to our house, so to speak, it lessens fear,” Tolchinsky explained.
Palms West Hospital is the only hospital in the western communities with a dedicated pediatric emergency room, which provides an atmosphere that is calming for children and comforting for parents, she said.
“It is something we let the children tour and see for themselves, so if they do end up as patients, there’s more of a comfort level,” Tolchinsky added.
All members of the healthcare team are specially trained to care for children of all ages, from toddlers to adolescents.
The unit features all private beds, with a total of 47 pediatric and pediatric intensive care beds for critically ill children. It is child-friendly, bright and cheerful with a playroom, as well as a teen room with computer and Internet access. In addition, the hospital employs a full-time child-life specialist who provides therapeutic play and developmentally appropriate activities for patients, reduces the stress of hospitalization and provides support to patients and their families, Tolchinsky said.
Palms West Hospital has been providing healthcare in the western communities since 1986. It is a comprehensive, 204-bed, acute-care hospital offering a wide range of specialty services.
It is Tolchinsky’s hope that Snack & Learn takes off in the community, but getting word out about the program is critical for its success, she said.
To register, or to get more information, call (561) 345-7009 or visit www.palmswesthospital.com.
ABOVE: Occupational therapist Alyson Earnhardt, speech pathologist Margarita Avila and pediatrician Dr. Lily Wiedrich at the Aug. 27 opening session.