MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Not everyone who works in direct contact with children at WVU Medicine Children’s is a doctor or nurse, but they can still make a big impact.
Katie Ridenour, a school intervention specialist, helps hospitalized children by helping them have some sense of normalcy. She helps them out with school work and teaches them while they are hospitalized. The educator said she doesn’t see herself as a hero, simply someone who is honored.
“I just feel honored to be a part of these kids’ lives when they’re dealing with something difficult,” Ridenour said. “I work as part of a specialty services team, and really one of our goals is to remember that when they’re here, they’re still children. Yes, their medical treatment is a priority, but we can’t forget that we’re treating the whole child. And so it’s just really important for me to make that my norm when I’m working with them and their families.”
Since students are not in the classroom, she said, a lot of their work has to be done virtually. To do that, Ridenour spends a lot of time coordinating with the student’s teachers to convert the in-class materials or create an alternative plan to help the child remain successful with their schoolwork.
Ridenour said having some familiarity with online learning before the COVID-19 pandemic was beneficial. However, it still wasn’t easy to navigate the virus while still serving in her role as an educator.
“There were definitely some restrictions that were put in place as to the types of students that I could go in and see, the amount of time I could spend with them,” Ridenour said. “But mainly, it’s just a big learning curve for families.”
With everything that a family has to deal with, from diagnosis to hospitalization of their child, she said a new curveball being thrown at them for education can be difficult to handle. To mitigate some of that stress, Ridenour said, she has tried to handle a lot of the education burden for parents to focus on their child getting well.
Part of Ridenour’s desire to help parents comes from a personal understanding of how difficult it can be to have a child hospitalized. She said her son was hospitalized in a neonatal intensive care unit.
“I don’t think I’d be able to work here if I hadn’t spent time with him there if I hadn’t learned what these machines mean, what these tubes mean, what this beeping sounds mean,” Ridenour said. “Because it was all very frightening to me before I knew what it was, but spending time with him here, I think, has opened that door and calmed some of the anxiety about the hospital setting.”
For now, Ridenour said, she has to do her lessons with students at their bedside, but that will change next year. That’s because WVU Medicine Children’s is building a new tower.
Ridenour will have her own classroom, where she said she wants to group students of similar ages to give them a sense of being in a classroom by being among their peers.
“I am really excited to create that learning environment with all the latest technology because I don’t think it’s going to be going away,” Ridenour said. “I feel like we’re moving in toward a new normalcy with the virtual tools that are available, so being able to accommodate that here will be really important.”