Pediatric Hospital School Programming: An Examination of Educational Services for Students who are Hospitalized

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Sarah Marie Steinke
Megan Elam
Mary Kay Irwin
Karen Sexton
Anne McGraw


This study aimed to define the current functions and operations of hospital school programs nationwide. A 56-item survey was disseminated to hospital teachers across the country to examine perceptions about their work, programs, and professional practice. Quantitative findings were analyzed using descriptive statistics at the individual item-level. Qualitative responses were categorized for thematic review and analyzed using an inductive approach. The final sample included 88 completed surveys. Findings were classified into three broad categories: hospital school programming, hospital school teachers, and hospital school instruction. Results revealed that great variability exists across hospitals. Differences were evident in how programs were staffed, funded, and how services are allocated to patients during hospitalizations. Findings will contribute to the establishment of best practices for hospital school programs.


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How to Cite
Steinke, S. M., Elam, M., Irwin, M. K., Sexton, K., & McGraw, A. (2016). Pediatric Hospital School Programming: An Examination of Educational Services for Students who are Hospitalized. Research, Advocacy, and Practice for Complex and Chronic Conditions, 35(1), 28–45.
Advocacy and Policy
Author Biographies

Sarah Marie Steinke, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

Sarah Steinke has been a hospital teacher since 2000 and is now the Lead Teacher for the Cancer and Blood Diseases Institute Hospital School Program at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.  Patient populations taught have included psychiatry, cystic fibrosis, hematology/oncology, and bone marrow transplant.  In addition to the years of experience as a hospital teacher, Sarah has been involved in AECMN and served as one of the original board members.  Over 88 hospital teachers across the nation shared about their practices in a questionnaire that Sarah developed and would like to share the results.

Megan Elam, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

As an expert in the field of education for students with a chronic medical condition, Dr. Elam currently serves in dual roles managing research and outreach in the School Intervention Program at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC) and as an adjunct instructor in the department of Special Education at the University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, OH). Due to vacancies in legislation relative to addressing the educational needs of students with a chronic medical condition, much of Dr. Elam’s work has focused on the examination of policies/legislation and advocacy for improved mandates to improve education in this area. Elam serves in numerous national leadership roles, including Vice President of the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division of Physical, Health, and Multiple Disabilities; Chairperson of the Legislative Alliance for Students with Health Conditions, and Co-Chairperson for the APHOES Legislative Committee, making distinct and nationally recognized advances toward transforming the educational landscape for students with a chronic condition through national presentations, publications, the development of teacher training and certification programming, and innovative research.


Mary Kay Irwin, Nationwide Children's Hospital

Dr. Mary Kay Irwin is the Director of School Health Services at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and is responsible for leading and assuring the development, implementation, and evaluation of school health services. Previously, Dr. Irwin worked as an Adjunct Instructor in the School of Education at the University of Cincinnati and for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center as the Manager of the School Intervention Program (SIP) in the Cancer and Blood Diseases Institute, the Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the Heart Institute. Dr. Irwin’s research and expertise centers around the intersection between health and education systems for pediatric patients and students inclusive of the continuum associated with chronicity beginning with diagnosis through survivorship.

Karen Sexton, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

Karen has worked in the Division of Child-Life and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s for eight years.  She focuses on the psychological aspects of hospitalization and has created a number of tools for hospital teachers to encourage dialogue with patients in order to identify their fears, desires, and concerns about school.  These tools provide specific ideas to parents, therapists, and school staff about helping the child reintegrate into his/her school setting.

Anne McGraw, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

Over twenty years ago, Anne launched what is now the Cincinnati Children’s Cancer and Blood Diseases Institute (CBDI) School Program. Over the years, she has guided this program to provide hope and structure for children facing exhausting medical regimens, extended hospital stays, and even the possibility of their own mortality. She has helped countless sick kids envision and realize a future in which they thrive. Anne’s vision has also had a national impact. She founded the Association for Education of Children with Medical Needs (AECMN), a national professional organization for hospital educators. She co-wrote the by-laws, guided the organization to non-profit status, and served as president.   Anne recently retired in December of 2015 after helping “Pediatric Hospital School Programming: An Examination of Hospital School Supports for Students who are Hospitalized” study be completed and results written and ready to be shared.