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Helping Patients Keep Up in Class

Posted on Jul 23, 2019

Carlton with Annette Pagliaro

“You’re going to help me register for classes, right?”

They are words Annette Pagliaro, a patient academic services school teacher at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, thought she would never hear from Carlton, a dialysis patient with whom she has been working closely. Just days before the question was, “Are we going to make it?”

In early 2018, it was still up in the air if Carlton was going to be able to graduate high school with his peers. Spending most of the day, three days a week in dialysis meant he was missing out on important class time. Time that eventually added up to two years’ worth of credits, making graduation just out of reach. It could have been an insurmountable barrier and one faced by many other students like Carlton.

According to the Florida Department of Education, graduation rates are on the rise. However, these rates are calculated using a group of students set to graduate within four years of enrollment in the ninth grade. The challenge here is ensuring their classmates with complex medical conditions are able to graduate at the same time.

When a child has a complex condition, there is the potential of missing many days of school for appointments, inpatient stays or dialysis treatments—and sometimes siblings may be affected as well, especially if the family is traveling a long distance to receive care.

Patient Academic Services at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital is working on bridging this gap. Dedicated school teachers, like Pagliaro, work five days a week all year long to keep patients and siblings engaged academically through the duration of their admission and beyond.

“Our team can support all grade levels from age 3 through college,” Pagliaro explains. “We meet patients at their level and keep them on track with their peers.”

For Carlton, his dialysis visits turned into classroom time and twice a week on non-treatment days he would meet with Pagliaro for additional tutoring and help with his online classes. In 11 months of work, he was able to earn all of the credits he needed for graduation.

Patient Academic Services is more than just tutoring or school lessons. This team of certified and qualified teachers aims to be a valuable resource for patients and families every step of the way. They encourage parents to become advocates for their children and help them navigate the educational options that are best for their family. Hospital teachers also work closely with district teachers to make sure instruction is as seamless as possible.
In addition to instructional time, Pagliaro was constantly working behind the scenes. There were daily communications between her and the school documenting Carlton’s progress and numerous teacher meetings for her to attend.

Currently, Carlton is enrolled at St. Petersburg College and is taking classes to get him started on earning a technology degree. Eventually, he would like to start his own business building computers. He’s already been able to earn a certification allowing him to fix phones and tablets—a small stepping stone to his future career.

“I wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I have without this program,” Carlton says. “Now it’s keeping me focused on college.”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation and Suncoast Credit Unions for Kids help support patient academic services at the hospital.

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