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Toy Story

From left to right, Erin Smith, Prof. Dorothy Grasso,<br> James Gerber, Michele Cyr, Professor Susan Brillhart, and Amanda Pamies,<br>.
From left to right, Erin Smith, Prof. Dorothy Grasso,
James Gerber, Michele Cyr, Professor Susan Brillhart, and Amanda Pamies,
December 15, 2010

As part of Nursing 313—Pediatric and Basic Medical-Surgical Nursing Care—BMCC students complete a clinical rotation at Lincoln Medical Center’s Pediatrics Department in the South Bronx, a facility that delivers pediatric emergency care to 50,000 children annually.

“You put the didactic information you learn in class, into practice,” said Erin Smith, who just completed the rotation, and her classmate Amanda Pamies added, “We were assigned a different child every week. I had a 2-month-old child with pneumonia, then a 4-month-old with dehydration, and a bacterial infection—but he’s fine now.”  

Identifying a need

As part of a hospital pediatric team, BMCC students look at nurses’ role in providing support for children, both physically and emotionally.

“You can’t keep kids in a bed all day, especially when they’re starting to feel better,” said Smith, who spent part of her rotation working with a recreation therapist in the pediatric Playroom—and that’s when she noticed it was fairly bereft of toys.

“Buying toys is probably pretty far down on the priority list, when they’re having a hard time getting whatever standard equipment they need, to treat people,” said fellow nursing major James Gerber.  

He and his classmates are aware of health issues facing communities such as the South Bronx, which has the highest asthma rates in the City, and where there is, according to Lincoln’s own Web site, “fewer than one primary care physician for every 4,000 people.”

Tackling that kind of inequity is a daunting task, but the students found a way to address it, one toy at a time.

Organizing a response

“We asked for donations from students—toys, books, puzzles, art supplies,” said Gerber. “We went to three different nursing classes,” added his classmate, Michele Cyr of Nursing 112. “I really didn’t expect us to get so much,” said Smith. “We collected hundreds of toys.”

Meanwhile, Pamies had been in touch with Valerie Miles, the pediatric department’s Recreational Child/Life Therapist, who gave guidelines on types of toys and books that are fun, level-appropriate, safe and durable enough to be placed in the Playroom.

“She’s going to keep most of them in the Playroom, and use some for Christmas gifts for kids whose families can’t afford them,” Pamies added.

December 21—another chance to give

“I saw this picture of the toys they’d collected, and I couldn’t believe it!,” said the students’ professor, Susan Brilhart, a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner who teaches the class with her colleague Professor Dorothy Grasso, and is now pursuing a Doctor of Nursing Science at the CUNY Graduate Center—a degree that will enable her to “secure more federal funding to improve the lives of children.”

Brilhart’s dedication to hospitals’ youngest patients is reflected by BMCC’s future nurses—who enthusiastically supported the toy drive—and the five students who organized it.

“We’re doing another drop at Lincoln on the 21st,” said Cyr, and offered her email address to anyone who wants to donate toys:

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  • As part of Nursing 313, students complete a rotation in the Pediatric Department at Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx
  • That’s where they came across a much-used Playroom that was low on toys
  • By organizing a toy drive, students learned something about giving back—and what it means to be a nurse

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