Meyer Children’s Hospital in Florence, Italy by Melanie Orama

I was able to visit Meyer Children’s Hospital which is a large pediatric hospital in Florence, Italy, with about 250 beds and many specialties with continuous growth. Although there are cultural differences between this hospital and a hospital in the U.S., there are also many similarities. Italy does not have certified child life specialists in their pediatric hospitals, but other professionals cover some of the services that a child life specialist would cover. Meyer Children’s Hospital has psychotherapists, educators, and psychologists who serve different roles. However, they cover many roles that a child life specialist would have in the United States. The hospital also has a playroom, school, and library available for the patients, and each one plays a unique role in promoting development for patients during their hospitalization. After learning about the different psychosocial careers and teams within the hospital, we interacted with a few hospitalized children in the playroom.

The educators in the playroom host activities about once a week for the children that visit the playroom. We observed and engaged in a collaborative painting activity with some of the hospitalized children, where we created two big art pieces. The goals of each art piece were different. About three or four children of different ages came over to paint with us as a group. A few seemed to have a slow-to-warm temperament, and although they engaged in the activity, they had limited engagement with the educators and us. One other child enjoyed it when we switched spots because she would laugh and smile at the people passing her. The other child enjoyed certain aspects of the activity, like dropping the paintbrush and pointing out his observations. He would also outwardly advocate for more time before switching positions. Due to Covid-19 cases, fewer children could visit the playroom, but the hospital continued with its programming regardless.

Overall, this was a unique experience. I was grateful to have the opportunity to witness how families from a different culture interact and witness children in both a community and hospital setting. Many things remain universal, like play as a language and children’s development. The garden was an excellent introduction to Italian culture and family interactions. I learned much about the Italian pediatric care system. For my professional future, I feel that I will retain the minimal Italian phrases I have learned and better understand the healthcare an Italian family may be accustomed to if encountered in the U.S. Moreover, I hope to improve my gestures and hand movements to learn more ways of communicating with other languages and continue to build my cultural humility.


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