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Sara Jane Gibson teaches empathy and compassion

March is Child Life Month, a month where hospitals celebrate child life specialists and the Child Life profession through education and awareness of their work. To honor these dedicated professionals during the month of March, CMN Hospitals will highlight the top 10 nominees submitted for the 2020 Delta Child Life Specialist of the Year award.

When a child is going through a major health challenge, it’s easy for school work to fall by the wayside. But, when treatment is over, the patient must return to being a student. That transition can be difficult. That’s where Sara Jane Gibson steps in. 

Sara Jane works as a Child Life Specialist at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her specialty is addressing the educational needs of children and adolescents. She works alongside public education leaders, teachers and counselors to advocate for the needs of her patients. 

With each child’s long-term treatment plan, Sara Jane creates a 504 plan for their schooling. She puts families at ease by making suggestions and going to the schools in person to serve as the family’s representative. 

Having access to school and education while in the hospital helps each child maintain a sense of normalcy and also alleviates worry of falling behind or not passing a class due to illness. 

A crucial part of Sara Jane’s job is not only teaching her patients, but also teaching their classmates and teachers empathy and compassion. She often visits the patient’s classroom and uses age-appropriate books and teaching dolls to educate their classmates about their medical condition and gives the students an opportunity to ask questions. She involves each patient in these visits so that they can gain confidence in their ability to explain their illness to their peers. 

Because of Sara Jane’s work, when a child’s treatment is over, the transition back to school goes much more smoothly. 

Recently, Sara Jane worked with a patient whose life expectancy was shortened. Her goal along with her parents was to graduate before she passed away. Sara Jane worked with her school to collaborate and determine the best way that she could complete her schooling and earn her graduation on a restricted timeline. 

Through her advocacy, Sara Jane helps patients in and out of the hospital see that they can succeed. 

Sara Jane Gibson enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She also likes traveling, creating stained glass art, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding.

Child Life Specialists help normalize the hospital experience and bring joy and comfort to hospitalized kids and their families. Many of the funds raised by CMN Hospitals are used to fund Child Life programs and help make up the gap between what government and insurance pay for and the actual cost of caring for kids in our member hospitals.