CHCC Nurse Retires After Four Decades

September 5, 2008 12:00:02 AM PDT
Fifty years ago hospitals in the Valley saw children as just small patients. Thankfully for kids and families that's no longer true.The changes came largely through the efforts of one nurse who officially retires this week. Her ideas have become a standard part of a child's medical care. The result is that the families of patients are nurtured right along with the patients here, thanks to the ideas of Sunny Shervem.

That was not the case in 1965 when she took a job at what was then - Valley Children's Hospital in Fresno. She explained why, "We didn't look at the whole child; we looked at why they were in the hospital. It was cause for instant dismissal to be caught sitting on a child's bed playing a game with them."

But she risked that on her nightshift. She brought in fun projects, played cards and tried to ease their fears. Her sense that kids needed to have fun often led to humorous methods to both treat the body and the child. Dressing like a clown could bring smiles from one ward to another. She finally convinced the hospital to embrace a new idea of caring for kids. "Child Life. That's where that title came from, looking at the whole child."

Today, some 43 years later, 'Child Life' is a service and department of the hospital. Kids now have schooling along with their treatment. They are given the opportunity to find out exactly what will happen to them and at their individual levels of development. Parents and siblings too find comfort, care and playtime here, too. The new hospital in Madera expanded on the idea with bigger and better play areas, inside and out. And with partnerships new learning opportunities opened up by university students and faculty keeping kids up to snuff with their studies when hospitalized for long periods of time.

Shervem applied the same goals to Camp Sunshine Dreams for cancer patients and their siblings. She helped found it more than 20 years ago. The experience, she says, helps strengthen families. Cancer affects the whole family and the time out doors gives siblings time together for just plain fun in a safe place with medical personnel as part of the camp scene.

As director of Child Life Services at CHCC now oversees 12 professionals in jobs that didn't exist when she began her career. The ending of her long tenure is bittersweet, "I'm leaving a part of my heart behind. Obviously, I'll miss the kids the most but I'm gonna miss my staff. I feel very positive about what I've done here."

Sunny Shervem retires September 5th with the hope the Child Life concept is always a part of the healthcare of children.

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