Pediatric Hospital Virtual Story Time Program
As a result of the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, in-person volunteering in hospitals has been limited which has resulted in greater social isolation for patients. This is especially true for pediatric patients, who greatly benefit from the group activity programming that has been restricted due to social distancing requirements. In an effort to lift spirits in pediatric hospitals, the House of Representative medical student government branch of New York Medical College (NYMC) set up a virtual story time program in collaboration with Maria Fareri Children's Hospital. A NYMC student House Representative coordinated with one of the hospital’s Certified Child Life Specialists to organize the program which started in December 2020. Medical students from all years (MS1-MS4) had the opportunity to volunteer to record their narration of an online version of a holiday-themed picture book on Zoom while sharing the book on the screen. The recordings are posted on a designated YouTube channel with the videos being promoted by the hospital around the time of the holiday as part of their activity programming. To ensure the recordings are easily accessible, they are converted into YouTube links to avoid the need for downloading the files. The virtual picture books, which usually take less than 10 minutes to read out loud, are borrowed from a community library’s virtual portal using a designated library card. Efforts are made to choose picture books that educate about holidays from a diverse set of religions and cultures. Book recordings were made for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, St. Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Passover, and Easter. The borrowed holiday-themed books are pre-approved by one of the hospital’s Certified Child Life Specialists prior to being posted on a Google sign-up sheet, where students can see the book descriptions and choose which books they want to narrate. Students are also provided with a document that has instructions on how to access the library books and how to abide by hospital HIPAA regulations while recording the narration. As many medical students wish they could do more to help the community during the pandemic, this 10 minute volunteering opportunity is a simple, cost-effective, and culturally competent way to increase social engagement while simultaneously educating pediatric patients about various religiously and culturally diverse holidays throughout the year.
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