"PALS" Program

PALS Student Guidelines and Information 

Structure of class sessions:

    Students visiting Pals classroom    

Each student enrolled in Pals will be matched with a chronically ill child. The student and child engage in a unique “pal” relationship for the duration of the academic year with the goals of:

  1. Educating medical students and nurturing empathy and understanding,
  2. Helping the children directly through activities and mentoring, and
  3. Providing a unique type of support to families facing chronic illness.

Student will also participate in biweekly seminars focusing on childhood chronic illness, family dynamics, and biopsychosocial issues related to specific illnesses.

The class is only 1 hour long with a 15 minute dinner period at the beginning of class. It is important for students to show up on time; attendance will be taken at each class. Please speak with a TA or Program Coordinator if you must miss a class. Students may only miss 1 class per quarter to receive full credit. There will be a variety of speakers and interesting discussions offered in this class which are designed to enhance the student's experience with the pal. Please see the schedule for a list of upcoming speaker topics!

Expectations of students:

It is expected that each student have at least one face-to-face contact with his or her pal monthly throughout the year. Pals may also have phone contact or e-mail contact as often as desired. Students are largely responsible for arranging visits and maintaining the relationship. Visits and outings can be discussed with the pal's parent and may depend on factors such as treatment and age of child. If you are having difficulty getting in touch with your pal, please notify one of the Pals coordinators or the pal's social worker.

It is expected that each student make contact with the pal's social worker prior to meeting the pal. The social worker will share information about the pal and keep you in the loop regarding the pal's medication situation. Regular contact with the social worker will be encouraged throughout the year to broaden the student's understanding of the pal's medical situation and to keep informed of important medical or social changes.

Please see schedule for class topics and speaker presentations. The classes will be held twice per month on Tuesday evenings from 5:00 to 6:15pm with breaks for finals and vacations (as per the school calendar). There are no exams or quizzes and grading is pass/fail.

Boundaries and Attachment:

Each family referred to the pals program will be carefully screened by the social worker and pals coordinators (Heather and Lindsey). Families will be informed of the program goals and other important details before the program starts and will be asked to sign two releases:

  1. HIPAA form for release of medical information
  2. Legal liability form.

Each family will have different needs with regards to pals. Older pals will likely prefer more individual attention whereas younger pals will have more family involvement with the student. Students often visit the pal's home. If the pal feels well, outings can be included too. Several students may take their pals on a group outing (ie mini golf, arcades, shopping mall, parks). The student is not responsible for paying for the pal on outings, though there may be funds in the Pals budget to reimburse students for various outings. Students are encouraged to attend the child's clinic appointments and to visit the child in the hospital. Students will be coached throughout the year regarding boundaries within the pal relationship. The student's role in the pals program is mentoring and support; NOT babysitter or personal doctor. It will be important for these boundaries to be respected and for students to report any problems to the Pals coordinators or the social worker as soon as possible.
Some of the pals have critical or terminal illnesses. It is natural for the student to become emotionally involved in the pal's medical situation. The Pals coordinators (as well as the pal's social worker) will be available for ongoing consultation throughout the year. You can schedule a private meeting with one of the Pals coordinators or find one of us after class.

Child Abuse:

Students in the Pals Program will need to be aware of the basic principles of child abuse identification and reporting. The unique pal relationship can often open provide the comfort level needed for the child to disclose physical or sexual abuse, or neglect. Because the Pals Program is under the supervision of LPCH professionals, medical students are considered “mandated reporters” of child abuse. This means that if you suspect that your pal is being abused in any way, you will need to make a CPS report. Of course, you would be coached and advised by the pal's social worker before making the report. We can provide you with a booklet of specific information of how to identify certain forms of abuse if needed. Please notify one of the Pals coordinators if you would like this booklet.

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