Villanova, PA, June 15, 2009 — "Anything for the kids!” is a phrase that all pediatric nurses can relate to their practice. It is also the motto of Little Smiles, a nonprofit organization that provides for the entertainment, health care or family resource needs of children facing health-related challenges. Little Smiles obtains goods and services for the children to make their treatment periods more tolerable and their life more enjoyable. Allied in their goals for children, pediatric nurses and Little Smiles are a perfect combination.
In April, the Nursing Alumni Association of the Villanova University College of Nursing, as part of its strategic plan to further engage and assist its alumni, endorsed Little Smiles, a nonprofit organization established in 1999. Little Smiles was founded by two 1988 Villanova business school alumni and college roommates-Paul “Chip” Donohue and Jeff Mullen. It is a volunteer-driven organization based in south Florida (Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie Counties) and eastern Pennsylvania with a future goal of helping children across the country and in selected other countries. In the Philadelphia area is has served nurses and their pediatric patients through Bryn Mawr Hospital, Chester County Hospital, St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children.
How does it work? The needs of children are identified by nurses caring for them in a variety of settings such as hospitals, shelters or hospices. Little Smiles expedites delivery-often within 24 hours- of the requested items or service such as games, toys, special event tickets, limousine rides, outings, “junk food runs” and computers to the child or pediatric unit. Nurses make requests for their pediatric patients using a streamlined interface on the website www.littlesmiles.org (to register, email firstname.lastname@example.org). Respectful of patient privacy, the form requires only the nurse’s name and affiliation along with the age, gender and location of the child, and specifics of the desired product or service. Little Smiles has also provided equipment and upgrades, such as child-friendly murals, for hospitals and dinner for parents at the request of the child.
Patty Snyder, ‘84 B.S.N., R.N., CAPA, is the coordinator of Bryn Mawr Hospital’s Surgicenter Post-anesthesia Care Unit, where they use DVD players to entertain children and decrease their stress both pre-and post-operatively. “Our DVD players were on their last legs and there was no money in the budget, so Little Smiles very graciously offered to donate one…it has helped a lot of children at Bryn Mawr Hospital,” notes Snyder who is also an Association board member . The Nursing Alumni Association, established in 1986, represents the over 6,000 alumni of the College of Nursing who are in clinical practice, administration, education and research settings around the globe. Through this endorsement, it is the hope of the Association to grow the professional engagement with Little Smiles of its alumni and other nurses caring for pediatric patients.
Staff nurse Bethann Worster ’06 B.S.N., R.N. has cared for patients at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) who have benefitted from Little Smiles by receiving such things as a laptop computer, Backyardigans concert tickets plus limousine service, and Phillies and Eagles tickets. “They also bring lots and lots of treats to the floor about once a month for both the patients and nurses,” says Worster, who also attended a Little Smiles black tie party last fall, “It was a great event where patients from CHOP were able to get dressed up and arrive in limos and walk a red carpet. They had family and friends of the patients take pictures as they walked as if they were the paparazzi!”
In describing their process, the Little Smiles website says “We work side by side with local nurses, and medical personnel who determine the immediate needs for each child and family. These are the 'angels' who know the kids, know the parents and know each special circumstance. We consult with them directly and therefore are able to provide what is needed most. We also interact directly with the kids.” When appropriate, the members of Little Smiles enjoy spending time with the children who are in need of company or companionship.