Parents with a sick child in the hospital are often reluctant to leave the bedside even to get something to eat, much less just to give themselves a needed break. And in an expensive city, the options may be frustratingly limited for those on a tight budget even if they would like to step away for a short time.

At Boston Children’s Hospital, one of the country’s premier institutions for the care of childhood illnesses, the in-house dining department has put forth one possible solution to this situation. It’s a monthly Parents Night Out dinner designed specifically for those with children requiring a long-term stay at the hospital and gives harried and stressed parents an opportunity to relax and enjoy a quality meal together.

Held in a conference room dressed up to resemble a nice white-tablecloth restaurant, Parent’s Night Out is designed to simulate the atmosphere of a special dinner out without leaving the hospital campus or breaking a family budget. The formally attired waitstaff is drawn from volunteers among the nutrition services staff and the chef and cooks donate their time and talents to make a special meal that is served tableside (no buffet lines here). The event is underwritten by donations from suppliers and the hospital.