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Child Life Specialist Ashley Zani goes above and beyond at Erlanger

One Halloween, there were two Ashleys on the Erlanger Hematology & Oncology unit—both dressed in a uniform of pink and black, both with pens and badges adorning their shoulders, both with brown hair and ready smiles. The only difference was about two feet in height.

You see, one Ashley was Ashley Zani, a Child Life Specialist at the hospital. The other Ashley was one of her patients, a mini Ashley who dressed up as her very best hospital friend. She had even kept her costume secret for the whole week, just so she could surprise the actual Ashley.

Every Child Life Specialist puts their heart and soul into caring for patients and their families. But Ashley is the favorite of more than a few patients. When families receive a cancer diagnosis, she is there to help them navigate the often frightening world of treatment and recovery.

Ashley goes above and beyond to help make patients and their families comfortable, learning each patient’s coping techniques and cuing up their favorite diversions—from particular music videos to favorite video games—before treatments.

Ashley is the designated go-to person, not just for patients but also for staff. She is Erlanger Oncology’s top expert in all things technology, and she translates her positive experiences with patients digitally, too, always remembering to pass along pictures and touching stories to the hospital social media team.

Ashley constantly makes an effort to maintain valuable community relationships. Whether that means taking time to ensure a donor is personally thanked, identifying patient families for Radiothon interviews, or working on thank you videos and posters for Children’s Miracle Network stewardship initiatives, she does not hesitate to offer her time to contribute to the program, the patients, and the donors.

Being a Child Life Specialist has been Ashley’s dream job for many years, and it’s still her dream job today. In 2011, Ashley told the Times Free Press, “When I leave work and when I come to work, I’m so grateful for the job I have and for my life.”

Since Ashley started her work at Erlanger, she has added to her own family. She has a beautiful five-year-old daughter and a dog named Lacey, who has passed the tests to come visit the hospital with flying colors. When patients are missing their own dogs, Ashley brings Lacey in to visit and lift their spirits.

It’s that extra, personal drive that makes Ashley so special. Even with limited resources and time, Ashley does everything in her power to build positive relationships and care for families, children, coworkers, and her community.  

Child Life Specialists help normalize the hospital experience and bring joy and comfort to hospitalized kids and their families. Many of the funds raised by CMN Hospitals are used to fund Child Life programs and help make up the gap between what government and insurance pay for and the actual cost of caring for kids in our member hospitals.