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Creating Joyful, Healing Spaces for Children

Martha Parra resized

Strolls through a colorful rock garden overlooking the city. Visits from facility dogs Company and Barney. Hosting a cooking show in a state-of-the-art broadcast studio. Posing questions in real-time on an African safari.

These are some of the ways Children’s National Hospital staff help children experience as joyful a hospital stay as possible. Martha Parra, Vice President of Clinical Support Services, leads the patient experience, which includes Child Life Specialists, pet, music and art therapy and all the integrative services that help children heal. Child Life Specialists support a patient’s medical journey. They explain complex medical procedures, making the stay less frightening and mysterious. Specialists provide social, educational and creative outlets for kids and their families. Needles, pills and procedures are not admitted in these “fun” spaces.

“As a nurse, I went into pediatrics is because I love kids, says Parra. “As an administrator, I get to make an impact for kids on a larger scale. But always the most fun part of my job is working with the children. I also love the wonderful teams that I work with. Each is so invested and engaged in the work, they make every single day of their job the most important day. It makes healing a kind of team sport, which is fantastic.”

Joy. Learning. Exploration. Magic. With the help of Parra’s team, these are the takeaways for kids that make world-class care and the Children’s National Hospital experience as welcoming as possible.