Communicating with Families of Student-Patients About Hospital Education Programs

Father with child patientBy: Mary Ware

In the hospital classroom, teachers and program administrators are at an advantage when compared to the families of student-patients. The hospital education environment is a unique subset of educational programming that can be very niche at times. There are specific attributes, requirements and processes that might seem second nature to teachers and program managers, but to families they can seem bewildering and even foreign.

When preparing to discuss programming with new families, it is important to view it as they do, and to anticipate questions and concerns that parents of student-patients might have.

Here are a few things to think about when communicating about programming to families.


  1. Understanding the need & reason behind the school program

When a child is admitted to a hospital or treatment facility, their parents and/or guardians may have a range of opinions when it comes to receiving academic services.

Some families may be determined to keep their child on pace with their peers in school, and may want full day educational programming, while others may want their child to focus solely on treatment or recovery and not worry about academics. Many others will fall somewhere in the middle.

It is therefore vital to introduce not only the programming to families, but discuss the reasons why the academic program is valuable and why it was designed with specific durations and times.

Helping families understand how educational tutoring works within the grand scheme of the student-patient’s treatment program will show parents that the needs of their students are being met appropriately and is supported by both the school and the treatment team at the facility.

  1. Tackling the administrative mountain

It is very likely that your team or facility has their methods and processes firmly in place to expedite new students and help get them into an educational program right from the start. From a parents point of view, they are likely not aware both of the amount of administrative steps that goes into arranging hospital tutoring, and the value of allowing the hospital to arrange it.
Well-meaning families may want to arrange tutoring themselves or be involved in contacting the school for approval and for work, in order to help their student receive services quickly. By having a strong program and administrative process, hospitals and treatment centers can help lessen the burden placed on the parent, and take over the complete responsibility of education servicing.

Taking the time to explain how the process works, and why sticking to a tried and true method is a good idea (as well as when your team will reach out to them if help is needed with the district) will help parents entrust their student into hospital programming, and give them confidence in the overall facility programming.

  1. Maintain good communication

While a student-patient is receiving treatment and educational programming, it is important to keep quality records demonstrating the amount of tutoring provided, assignments and work completed, and credit earned. This will ensure that the student-patient has a smooth transition back to school and receives the proper credit upon their return.

If issues arise, or if a student-patient is unwilling or unable to complete the work, both the treatment team and the student’s family should be kept up to speed. They may be able to offer suggestions on motivators and interests, or may be able to offer encouragement to their student while visiting and/or speaking with them.

Open communication and transparency also demonstrates a quality program, and can hep generate future referrals.

Parents and other family members of student-patients are faced with many difficult decisions and factors during treatment. By being open and honest with the family, and demonstrating how the program strengths in arranging and delivering educational programming puts their child’s education at top priority, program administrators and teachers alike can lessen the burden placed on families and instill confidence in the programming.

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