New Art Programs at Nemours Let’s Patients Feel Like Kids Again

When children are put in the hospital there is an overwhelming list of concerns, one being if the child will have a chance to play like a child again. Nemours Children’s’ Hospital of Orlando is giving their young patients more opportunities to play like a kid with their partnership with local art museums.

Since the beginning of 2013, Nemours has partnered with Orlando Museum of Art, Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens and The Mennello Museum of American Art, to bring different programs to patients, according to Josh Wilson, senior manager of public and community relations at Nemours. Each Orlando museum offers something different to the patients.

The Orlando Museum of Art (OMA) is known as a home for local storytellers and performers. Nemours partnered with this museum to bring one of the oldest forms of art to the young patients four times a year.

Not only do the storytellers perform enchanting stories, they also bring supplies to help the kids create something based on the story. The hospital staff plans to display this unique in an illustrator’s gallery. OMA provides museum tickets for patients as well.

Morse Museum comes four times a year to provide art and educational events. They also let Nemours patients tour the museums with their families at no charge.

The Albin Polasek Museum donated “Elizabeth,” a gorgeous bronze statue of a six-year-old girl created by Albin Polasek after he had a stroke and was paralyzed on one side of his body. The statue serves to inspire someone of what they can accomplish even after dealing with difficult medical issues.

The Mennello Museum of American Art provides Nemours with a rotating gallery of folk art that hangs in the hospital.

Though these partnerships are relatively new, Jill Mondry, director of volunteer services at Nemours, started the art therapy program there five years ago. The program provides patients with an art therapist that comes to the hospital twice a week and works one-on-one with the patients.

“What research has found and what we see is that this is one way for children to express themselves,” said Mondry, who has been with the hospital for seven years. “Often children can’t express what is happening to them or what is going on in their world when they have a serious illness. But they can express things in art.“

Mondry has seen the children’s paintings reflect a variety of things such as how they were feeling that day, a place they wanted to go after they were done with chemotherapy or a happier time in their life that they are remembering.

These art programs all fall under the role of the Child Life Department, a vital department in any children’s hospital, according the Mondry.

“We know when children are hospitalized that they still need play, they still need to be a kid. Child Life is responsible for making sure that they can continue that experience even if they are hospitalized,” said Mondry.

This department sets up all the different events children can participate in, but they also play a key role in explaining to the child what is going on with their health.

“The parents, doctors and nurses may be talking about something that goes way over the child’s head, said Mondry. “The child life specialist is trained to talk to the child in a way that the child can understand.“

Mondry said that the art programs are beneficial for not only the children, but the parents and hospital staff as well.

“I think that it is very healing for the entire family. For some it’s a memory of the child,” said Mondry. I think its great for the staff for the children to see that they are doing something all kids like to do. They don’t seem sick when they are doing art.”