Katelyn Leitner – Alumni Profile

South Carolina native Katelyn Leitner graduated from ECU in December of 2016, with a master’s in human development and family science. While studying at ECU, Katelyn decided to focus and specialize in Child Life, and became a child life specialist in 2017.

After graduating, Katelyn accepted a role with Prisma Health Children’s Hospital Upstate in Greenville, South Carolina, as a certified child life specialist, where she provides treatment plans for pediatric patients and their families. And, in September of 2019, Katelyn took on a new role as Prisma Health Children’s Hospital’s Canine Facility Coordinator, managing the hospital’s facility dogs in The Canine F.E.T.C.H. (Friends Encouraging Therapeutic Coping and Healing) Unit. The F.E.T.C.H. Unit is an animal-assisted therapy program for patients and their families. Facility dogs are expertly trained dogs who partner with a handler, such as Katelyn, to care for patients.

During a normal day, Katelyn oversees the F.E.T.C.H. Unit, which includes 7 full-time facility dogs and manages the day-to-day operations of the program. However, in light of recent events, the F.E.T.C.H. Unit has also been impacted by COVID-19.  The dogs in the unit, including Kalle, Katelyn’s personal dog, have temporarily stopped seeing patients. But, that hasn’t stopped them from providing support. Kalle has been Facetimeing patients, is a pen pal, provides coloring pages of the dogs, and Katelyn is even showing patients Kalle’s baby book. Katelyn said, “It is very different from our norm, but it has been so good”.

The FETCH Unit is also focusing on staff support throughout the hospital. The FETCH unit just launched their staff support snuggle tour where Katelyn, Kalle, and other members of the unit visit all areas of the main hospital campus, and a few other selected campuses to provide support specific to staff. 

Katelyn told us that when Kalle is not with her, she is still functioning as a child life specialist for her units. When there is a COVID-19 positive or potentially positive child, Katelyn has been trained and approved to see them and provide support. The Prisma Health Children’s Hospital is currently providing drive through testing site at the main campus, and Katelyn is providing child life support for pediatric patients when they come through. To help with the process of testing, Katelyn created a prep book to send to parents before medical staff comes to talk and work with their child.

During this busy time, Katelyn tells us that “My time at ECU is something I wouldn’t trade for the world. My professors and program helped support both my professional and personal growth that led to my current roles.  They supported me as I sought out opportunities and pushed me out of my comfort zone to grow to my fullest potential. I can remember sitting and learning about the job that I have now, thinking that is the dream and I will never be able to do that.  I am here, less than 5 years from graduating, and it is truly due to the time and energy that was poured into me during my time there. I am so thankful to the HHP program.”

Katelyn’s advice for current students? “I would tell everyone to trust. There’s a path that you are on –  you may mess up along the way or take a turn that you didn’t expect, but it will lead you right where you are supposed to be. Some parts will challenge you, some will be very easy, but they are all molding you and helping you grow for where you will land”.