Circus-themed pretend hospital helps ease youngsters’ anxiety about medical treatment

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The theme of this year’s Let’s Pretend Hospital, hosted by the UAH College of Nursing, was “The Greatest Hospital.”

UAH College of Nursing

This week, the College of Nursing at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) welcomed more than 2,000 area first-grade students to its annual Let’s Pretend Hospital. The popular multiday event comprises hands-on activities, skits, and presentations to help reduce the fear and anxiety that children may experience if they must be hospitalized or visit the emergency room.

"Let’s Pretend Hospital educates the youngest in our community that hospitals are not scary places where people are going to hurt you," says Dr. Melissa Foster, a clinical assistant nursing professor who serves as the event coordinator. "So we use fun skits and language that first graders can understand to describe what each area of the hospital does and how healthcare providers sometimes use scary things, like X-ray machines or needles, but that they are always working to take good care of them and their loved ones."

The Three Penny Opera

More than 2,000 area first-grade students participate in the multiday event, which is intended to reduce any fear and anxiety that may be associated with hospitals.

UAH College of Nursing

This year’s theme, dubbed "The Greatest Hospital," was chosen by the graduating senior class and paid homage to the popular Hugh Jackman movie musical, "The Greatest Showman." With the help of students, faculty, staff, and volunteers, the Nursing Building was "completely transformed," says Dr. Foster. "The lobby was turned into the big top with acrobats, jugglers, and ringmasters!"

As with past iterations of Let’s Pretend Hospital, the visiting children enjoyed skits performed by the College’s seniors, who imparted valuable information in the process of entertaining their young audience members. They also toured the College’s Learning and Technology Resource Center, which serves as a mock hospital for clinical experiences thanks to its six high-fidelity simulation laboratories. With select first graders volunteering to serve as "patients" and their families, the children progressed through a variety of medical settings, including an emergency room, a safety room, an operating room, and an ambulance.

The Three Penny Opera

Hands-on activities, skits, and presentations engage and delight the event’s young participants.

UAH College of Nursing

"This is a wonderful event that I feel very fortunate to have become a part of," says Dr. Foster. "Each year we receive thank-you letters and drawings from the children that we share with our nursing students so that they have an understanding of the impact they’ve had on the lives of these first graders. I also save all of these letters and drawings to show future classes of nursing students – and to remind myself on those especially hard days that everything we do has the potential to impact the future!"

UAH’s Let’s Pretend Hospital program dates back to 1985 and serves students in public, private, and home schools in Madison County, Ala. It is administered in partnership with the Huntsville Hospital Department of Volunteer Services, which coordinates program registration and scheduling, provides equipment, and directs the event. Senior nursing students enrolled in the Community Health Nursing course receive clinical hours credit for their participation in Let’s Pretend Hospital. Campus counterparts such as UAH’s Office of Marketing and Communications, the UAH Police Department, and Facilities & Operations provide additional support services.


Contact

Dr. Melissa Foster
 256.824.6217
Melissa.Foster@uah.edu

UAH College of Nursing
 256.824.6742
nursing@uah.edu

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