UVA Closes Health Museum
By Claudia Pinto / Daily Progress staff writer
April 26, 2005
After 25 years and more than 150,000 visits, the Children's Health Museum will close its doors May 3 because of a space shortage at the University of Virginia Medical Center.
The museum prepares young patients for surgery and teaches schoolchildren healthy habits, how their bodies work and what it's like to go to the hospital. It will be turned into a patient registration site.
"We need that space to have a better welcoming and registration area for patients coming into the hospital," said Peter Jump, spokesman for the UVa Medical Center. "It just needs to be a bigger area."
Rebecca Deane of Louisa is one parent who's sad to see the museum close. She said the museum taught her son not to fear medical procedures. When Deane was hospitalized for 22 days, she said her 6-year-old was unfazed to see tubes connected to her arms and throat.
"He said, 'Those tubes bring you medicine to help you get better,'" Deane recalled. "He learned that at the museum."
Jump said about 40 children each year receive "pre-op" services at the museum. And he noted that children will still be provided with educational services to prepare them for surgery or for a family member's surgery.
"We now have 23 professional educators for children," Jump said. "We already offer these services throughout the hospital and we'll be expanding these services."
What won't be available at the hospital are the museum's exhibits, a popular attraction among school groups. In 2004, 1,100 children from area schools went to the museum. In addition, the museum's director spoke to 1,600 children at their schools.
"The museum is a wonderful educational resource for teachers," said Dana Sheridan, an educational psychologist who volunteered at the museum. "I can't think of any other program like this in the community."
Jump said the exhibits will be given to the Virginia Discovery Museum on the Downtown Mall so that children can still benefit from them. "School groups can still come to the hospital," he noted.
Deane isn't convinced that the effect will be the same. She noted that thousands of children visit the museum each year and leave feeling less anxious about going to the doctor. "There are a lot of children coming into the hospital for one reason or another," Deane said. "There are going to be a lot more unhappy children for sure and a lot more children who are going to be to be afraid of what happens. Doctors are going to have more trouble getting kids to cooperate."