A child smiling with their parent
By Candace Hopkins

The Art of Distraction, One Infusion at a Time

Sandia National Laboratories Staffers Bring STEM Program to UNM Child Life Infusion Patients

Sandia National Laboratories employees visited patients in The University of New Mexico Hospital Pediatric Infusion Lab last week, providing them with a fun and educational distraction as they received their infusions.

UNM Hospital Child Life staff support the emotional and cultural needs of the hospital’s youngest patients with educational materials, along with access to games, toys, art supplies and more.

It brings in a lot of difficult types of learning modalities and then it connects to their everyday life
Jennifer Jung, Child Life Educator

One recent focus has been providing additional science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs for patients. “It brings in a lot of difficult types of learning modalities, and then it connects to their everyday life,” said Child Life educator Jennifer Jung.

Members of the Sandia Labs staff said they are passionate about exposing children to STEM education.

John Zepper, Sandia’s executive director for Information Engineering and chief information officer, said he volunteers with local Boy Scouts, teaching about the similarities between the human body and computers. He equates a memory chip to brain matter, a screen to eyes and motherboards to the body, which holds everything together.

Zepper said he reformatted that class for the children at the UNMH Infusion Lab.

Four-year-old patient Amelia eagerly watched the presentation from her bed, taking a break from playing with cars and creating stamp art.

Amelia’s dad, Benjamin, said Child Life already does a great job providing entertainment for the patients, but events like these are a welcome opportunity to take her mind off her medical treatment and to create a positive association with coming to the hospital.

“Having extra distractions and stuff, it’s memorable for her and she gets excited to come back,” he said.

Zepper said he was impressed by how much the children already understood the technology that goes into the tools they use in their everyday lives.

“There are some smart kids here,” Zepper said. “They knew what motherboards were. They all know about phones, so if you relate it to a phone, they get it – just like that.”

He added that Sandia staff are considering how they can return to UNM Hospital in the future to provide more STEM programming, including expanding the presentation to children in other units and developing additional demonstrations and activities.

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