Bridging the gap between hospital and school: an initiative of Meyer Children’s Hospital

Ospedale Pediatrico Meyer di Firenze

Meyer Children’s Hospital – one of the flagship institutions in Florence, Tuscany, Italy – is known for providing high-quality health services and educational programmes to its young patients. The hospital started an initiative, bridging the gap between hospital and school, by creating a network of schools throughout the Tuscany Region to allow hospitalized children to continue their school education. This initiative also contributes to a better recovery through education, as it facilitates the process of adaptation to the school environment after leaving the hospital. It is a successful example of intersectoral collaboration between the health and the educational sectors at the regional level.

Continuing children’s education at the hospital

When a child first arrives at Meyer Children’s Hospital, teachers and doctors meet with the parents to introduce them to the continuing education initiative. Teachers working at Meyer come from 21 schools in Florence and provide primary and secondary education at the hospital. Furthermore, teachers from other cities in the Tuscany Region have also started collaborating with the Meyer hospital in 2014. Regional educational authorities recognize the working hours of teachers at the hospital and therefore institutionalized this system. In addition, many volunteers – often retired teachers – are also an active part of this network, filling any potential gaps and reaching hospitalized students where traditional educational institutions cannot.

According to these teachers, the most important skill for this special profession is flexibility. Children’s profiles change from one case to another. Furthermore, classes are usually interrupted due to the health status of the child and the need for specific and continuous treatments. In this context, teachers working at Meyer Children’s Hospital must overcome the traditional rigidity of the school system, especially when it comes to school examinations. The content and pace of each school class is adapted to each child’s specific needs. According to these teachers, being able to adapt to these changing and challenging situations proves whether the school is successful for its main beneficiaries, children. Despite the need for such flexibility, all school examinations taken at Meyer Children’s Hospital are recognized by the regional educational authorities. This helps children to transition from the hospital and to resume their studies at traditional schools.

Improving children’s health through education

The benefits of this network of schools are not only educational but also health related. Regular meetings are held between teachers, doctors, health assistants, psychologists, social workers, library operators and families of hospitalized patients. Besides discussing and reporting on the educational development of the child, teachers are an excellent source of information for doctors, as they are in a privileged position to observe a child’s health development outside the hospital context, despite still being inside its walls.

For additional information, please contact: Dr Alberto Zanobini, Director of Meyer Children’s Hospital, and Regions for Health Network focal point for Tuscany Region at alberto.zanobini@meyer.it