School bells ring on pediatric floor

The patients at Miller Children’s Hospital at Long Beach (CA) Memorial Medical Center may be hospitalized, but they don’t have doctors’ notes excusing them from school.

Instead, school comes to them. The hospital has a classroom complete with a teacher from the local school system who conducts classes 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on weekdays.

Each morning, teacher Sue Liff checks with workers at the Miller Children’s Child Life Program to determine which children are physically able to attend classes. For those who cannot leave their rooms, Liff provides individualized instruction. She groups students into time slots depending upon their age and grade levels. Liff teaches approximately four children at a time. The time children spend in the classroom depends on their condition and medical needs.

Prior to October when Miller Children’s School opened, staff had to fax all patient information to local-area schools — including names, grade levels, and the duration of hospital stay to obtain a tutor. "By having a teacher on site each day, hospital-based children can start school whenever they are medically ready. And for kids with chronic illnesses who can attend classes frequently, they don’t need to lose ground in their education," says Linda Williams, Child Life Program coordinator.