12:00 PM

Taking Your Child to Your Medical Appointment? Never Fear, Jennifer Is Here

When the doors first opened at the Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–17th Street Play Center in 2002, Jennifer Miller and her colleagues there weren’t sure what to expect.

“I remember the first day and the first few weeks, we didn’t get many children,” says Miller, who has been a play center assistant through its entire history. “That was probably good at the start as we were getting settled. But that certainly changed through the years.”

The 15th anniversary of the play center was observed with a special celebration on July 27, with Miller being honored for her loyalty to the program and expertise in handling her young visitors.

“She’s really great with the kids,” says Sue Jones, Administrator for LVH–17th Street Operations. “She’s such a kind person and just has a way with them. We’ve never had the slightest complaint from parents or guardians. In fact, many kids ask if they can come back even if mom or dad doesn’t have an appointment.”

Safe, supervised play at the play center

The program was originally devised by Jim Geiger, now President of Lehigh Valley Hospital–Muhlenberg, because many parents who were bringing children to diagnostic clinic appointments at the hospital had difficulty looking after them.

The play center is open weekdays from 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. and is available to children ages 2½ to 11. Their stay is rarely as long as two hours. Safety is the primary concern. Parents, guardians and their children are identified by wristbands, and the door to the center is always locked until someone who wants to enter is recognized and admitted.

“We do arts and crafts projects with the kids with a different theme every month, and they really seem to enjoy that,” Miller says. “I’m a mom myself and I’ve learned a lot from the projects my kids brought home from school in their early grades that we ended up trying at the center. We also have books, games, videos and a TV set where we’ll show Nickelodeon or Disney Channel for the kids who don’t want to participate.”

Miller was working at a nearby daycare in 2002 when her uncle, Thomas Eames, an inpatient case manager for the nursing float pool, suggested she apply for a job at the new center. Today, she works alone unless more than 10 children are under her watch. In that case, hospital volunteers are asked to assist.

Ongoing demand for play center care

“It can get busy there, especially in the summer months,” Jones says. “We can get as many as 150 children over a summer month. The rest of the year it’s more like 80 children a month. We’re opening a similar center at the new Family Health Pavilion at LVH–Muhlenberg soon and we hope things go as well as they have gone here.”

After 15 years, Miller feels every day has been memorable in its own way.

“Occasionally we’ve had a child who was upset at being separated from their parent,” Miller says. “We have no choice but to call the parent to come for the child. But that’s happened only a handful of times. It’s more often that the child wants to stay when mom or dad is ready to go.”

And what about the next 15 years.

“I really like it here, but you never know what the future holds,” Miller says. “I think whatever I’ll be doing, it will be something about working with kids. I can’t imagine anything I’d enjoy more.”