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Schwartz Turns Fear of Hospitals into Understanding

Kam King
Wed, 2012-12-05 08:38

Discomfort. Anxiety. Fear. These are typical emotions that a patient feels when entering a hospital. Senior Lindsay Schwartz feels exactly the opposite. “I feel in my element when I walk through the doors of a hospital,” she said.

With such an unusual appreciation for hospitals, her next step was figuring out which career would best incorporate her high regard for the sweet aroma of antiseptics. The undergraduate student didn’t just want to work in a hospital though. Schwartz wanted to blend the two things she’s loved ever since she was young: a clinical environment and working with children.

Schwartz, of Worthington, Ohio, was thrown into her calling unexpectedly as a high school freshman teaching gymnastics. Her first “patient” was a little girl with bright blonde hair who just loved learning how to tumble. Schwartz didn’t just teach the child gymnastics techniques; she learned to accommodate the gymnastics class to her abilities due to the girl’s spina bifida diagnosis. “It was a challenge that I enjoyed,” she said. “I thrived because I could help.”

A quick Google search revealed that a career as a child life specialist would allow Schwartz to work with more children like Erin. Child life specialists assist patients and their families with their developmental, educational, psychosocial and recreational needs during hospitalization. “This position would allow me to help kids and their families cope with illness and stress, and that’s exactly what I wanted to do,” she said.

A practicum at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in 2011 offered the human development and family science major an introduction into the child life profession. “I was disappointed whenever they sent me home early,” she said. Schwartz’s passion for the field made her a perfect fit for Children’s. Her practicum supervisor, Karen McHugh-Fornadel, said, “Lindsay was a pure joy to have as a student because she was highly motivated and a self-starter.”

Attending a Child Life Council conference in Washington, D.C. in May only intensified Schwartz’s desire to join the profession. “I just soaked up all of the information that I could,” she said. “Everything was so interesting.”

Undergraduate research finds the gaps in sibling care

In the child life specialty, the focus is on the patient. Hospital staff have traditionally been unable to give as much attention to the siblings of those patients. Schwartz aims to permanently change the way the child life field regards sibling care. “I want to discover the gaps in what textbooks say is necessary for siblings and what is actually taking place clinically,” she said. To uncover this, Schwartz conducted a literature review about the needs of young children with hospitalized siblings. Her next step is to survey child life specialists via the Child Life Council’s National Forum to learn how practicing professionals regard sibling care.

The senior’s research would not be possible if it were not for a full-tuition Undergraduate Research Scholarship in the College of Education and Human Ecology. The scholarship, specifically for students in the EHE Honors Program, also makes it possible for Schwartz to attend national conferences in her field. “This scholarship makes me feel like someone is always in my corner,” she said. She also received grant support from the Grace T. and Dorothy H. Henderson Memorial, Joseph and Nina Mattus Memorial, and Provost scholarships.

Her honors advisor, Eugene Folden, has always been in her corner. The director of human development and family science undergraduate programs and advising has continuously encouraged the outstanding student to push herself. “In the 21 years I have been teaching at Ohio State, I have had many excellent students in my classes. Of those, about 10 have been truly gifted,” he said. “Lindsay is one of those truly gifted students and I consider myself fortunate to be her honors advisor.”

Schwartz also receives encouragement from her professor and friend, Amy Bonomi, associate professor of human development and family science. Schwartz is a teaching assistant for Bonomi’s course on human sexuality in context.

Schwartz’s minor in disabilities studies was motivated by Brenda Brueggemann, professor of disability studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. The minor has led to her examination of the nature, meaning and consequences of disability in today’s culture. “She really has inspired me ever since I attended her freshman seminar course,” she said.

Excelling beyond classroom and hospital walls

Schwartz is one of those students whose commitment to Ohio State does not stop in the classroom. Even as she maintains a 4.0 grade point average, she also works as a senior recreation leader for Ohio State Recreational Sports in adapted recreation. The position allows her to create lesson plans to teach swimming and gymnastics to adults and children with disabilities.

She served the Columbus community by revitalizing the Student Association for Families, Children and Lifespan Development (SAFCALD). As president of the student organization, she focuses on benefiting Columbus children, families and elderly. “We provide services for students interested in community service with people across the lifespan,” Schwartz said. The organization has partnered with the Ronald McDonald House and Buckeyethon since 2010.

Schwartz has also found a home at the Hillel Jewish Student Center. She was so active, the Ohio State Hillel Foundation awarded her its Community Service Award. Ohio State is one of the top public universities that Jewish students choose, according to Reform Judaism magazine. “I’m happy that I attend a university with a very connected Jewish population,” she said.

When asked how she manages to maintain so many different commitments, Schwartz said that she lives by her planner. “Remaining organized is something that has really helped me do well.”

In the end, Schwartz hopes to find a position that will tie together all of her favorite things. However, any day that she can help children and adults battling the difficulties of hospitalization is a day living her dream.

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