Child Life Specialists work with our patients and families at the Children’s Hospital of Georgia. Since it is Child Life Month, meet the following staff who each highlight a part of our role within the hospital.
Harleigh Turner, as Certified Child Life Specialists, we utilize Medical Play to familiarize and desensitize patients and their family members to materials and procedures associated with the healthcare environment, and facilitate patients gaining mastery over their healthcare experiences. We also utilize Medical Play interventions to clear up any misconceptions a patient and their family may have. These interventions can take on a variety of forms such as games, art projects, and allowing them to play as if they were a medical professional. Some of my favorite Medical Play interventions are syringe painting, creating a jellyfish out of a surgical cap, and creating elephants out of examination gloves. I, personally, utilize Nugget in Medical Play interventions when patients and their siblings assume the role of doctor or nurse, and give Nugget a “Check-Up” with a stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, thermometer, and otoscope. Sometimes, patients will also utilize an alcohol wipe, a piece of gauze, a toy syringe, and a toy Band-Aid to give Nugget a “poke.”
Macie Meeks, child Life Specialists use preparation to help kids understand what is going to happen while they are in the hospital, so that they can better cope with the hospital experience. We use developmentally appropriate information and methods (prep books, medical play on a doll) so that kids know what they will see, hear, feel, and even smell. By preparing kids, our goal is to reduce the stress and anxiety related to unfamiliar hospital experiences, promote mastery, and clear up any misconceptions they may have.
Meredith Glenn, the hospital and clinic environment is very different for children and teens when compared to being at home or at school. A hospital room contains a strange bed with buttons, there are many different smells, places, equipment and strange sights to be seen in the hospital. A young patient also will likely experience a procedure of some sort and/or treatment that could be stressful to any individual, but especially a child. As an expert in child development, Child Life Specialists strive to provide normalizing activities, toys and interventions for children who enter the hospital. This can look as simple as providing an age appropriate toy or activity to pass the time which also aids in helping the patient cope through play and distraction. Normalization in the hospital can also be seen through an intervention that specifically targets a developmental task. We also have play spaces that encourage and entice our pediatric patients to continue “playing with a purpose” while in the hospital. Play is a tool that is utilized by children for many reasons, but one specific reason is children feel more comfortable in their environment when they are able to use play to explore and work through various emotions or experiences they are having. Not only are young patients effected by hospitalization but so are their entire families. A Child Life Specialist may encourage parental involvement during a procedure by allowing the parent to hold the child in their lap through a comfort position. This allows the child to have a familiar and trusted person in stressful situation, therefore it feels a bit more normal. Integrating the entire family into our interventions is a consistent goal for us, so that everyone can play a part in the healing process.
Stephanie Grayson, the hospital can be extremely intimidating for patients and their family members. As Child Life, we try to help support everyone as much as we can by providing coping tools to help with the days that are challenging. We offer distraction with play during novel and painful experiences, procedures, scans, hospitalization, and more. We take the focus off of what is painful and redirect it towards things that are familiar and enjoyable.
Kym Allen, being in the hospital on any day is challenging but being in the hospital on a holiday is really hard for the pediatric patient. Child Life provides holiday special events (Santa visit on Christmas Day, Trick or Treat, Birthday celebrations and other holiday observances) for patients and families who are in the hospital on those special occasions. Child Life also has ongoing special events such as art activities, character visits, and music concerts to help the patients and families have some type of normalcy in the hospital. Child Life also offers several summer camp opportunities for chronically ill patients giving kids the opportunity to attend a medically supervised typical camp experience. Our camps allow patients with a chronic diagnosis to meet and interact with others offering peer support and independence.
Kristin O’Leary, therapeutic interventions are a vast part of what Child Life Specialists do on a daily basis. It incorporates all aspects and services that we provide: preparation, normalization, coping, distraction, and family support. Through play, we can help with clearing up misconceptions and fears, answering questions, talking about their diagnosis and prognosis, reaching milestones, and setting goals. We individualize our activities based on the needs of the patients and families to help with hospitalization and provide quality care by playing with a purpose.
Nugget and Casey, as part of the Child Life team, the dogs serve patients in various areas by providing an opportunity to interact with our furry friends in the hospital/clinic environment. Nugget and Casey help patients by preparing them for surgery and other procedures, supporting them during painful procedures and just letting them meet and pet a dog to help decrease stress and increase coping.
Celebrate Child Life month and remember that it is truly a gift to care for sick children. Learn more about child life specialists at augustahealth.org/chog.