Children's Health

Celebrate child life month: Meet our Child Life Specialists

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.

Medical Play

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.”       

Preparation 

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.

Normalization/Family Support

Kym Allen, being in the hospital or clinic environment is different than being at home or a school.  It is filled with strange sights, smells, places, procedures and treatments for a young patient.  As an expert in child development, Child Life Specialists strive to provide normal activities, toys and interventions to the children who enter the hospital.  This could be as simple as providing a toy or activity to pass the time or an intervention that specifically targets a developmental task.  We have play spaces that entice our pediatric patients to continue “playing with a purpose” while in the hospital.  The entire family is effected by a hospitalization.  Child Life integrates the entire family into our interventions so everyone can play a part in the healing process.     

Support/coping

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.          

Special Events/Camps/Holiday

Mandy Lee, in addition to direct patient care, we provide other fun activities for our patients to look forward to and take part in. Throughout the week, we have groups come in to offer special events like art activities, games, music concerts and fun costumed characters. Knowing how important holidays are for kids and their families, we make sure to celebrate those days with the patients who are in at that time. Santa makes his annual appearance, we trick or treat through the hospital on Halloween, and if a child is admitted on their birthday, we make that day special for them. Finally, we have diagnosis specific summer camps that we offer which gives some of our patients the opportunity to have a normal summer camp experience despite any medical or physical limitations that they may have. 

Therapeutic Interventions

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.   

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.

                                 

About the author

Children's Hospital of Georgia

Children's Hospital of Georgia

Children’s Hospital of Georgia is the only facility in the area dedicated exclusively to children. It staffs the largest team of pediatric specialists in the region who deliver out- and in- patient care for everything from common childhood illnesses to life-threatening conditions like heart disorders, cancer and neurological diseases.