Tag Archives: hospital

Child Life, the Robin to a Doctor’s Batman

14 Jul

photo copy 2Last week, I had a really cute conversation with a 9 year old male patient during my morning assessment rounds. He had been admitted for a few days, but feeling quite well. As you can imagine, he was very bored. It was during my morning check-in with him that a really fun, “lightbulb moment” happened. The following is a synopsis of our conversation:

Child – “So what is a Child Life Specialist (my job) anyways…”

Me –  “Well, we’re kind of like the right hand helpers to doctors.”

Child – “Sooooo,”   *thinks*   you’re kinda like their side-kick?

 Me – “In a way, yeah. If the doctor comes to check-in on you & they realize they might need to do something scary, like give you a new medicine, use machines to check how your body is feeling, or use needles … they might ask me to come in 1st to help you get ready so it’s not as scary anymore.

 Child – *thinks some more* … “Soooo, you’re like the Robin to the doctor’s Batman then?” .. *smiles brightly*

Me – “Exactly” *returns smile*

When working with school-age children, especially in the medical setting, it’s important to keep your language simple and concrete. For this child, Batman and Robin were a familiar team working together to keep the inhabitants of Gotham City safe from those who meant to hurt or cause pain. After taking a few seconds to reflect, I saw his line of thinking. As a Child Life Specialist, we are charged to advocate and even protect children from as many of the stressors related to the medical environment as possible. We work alongside other medical clinicians, trying our best to keep fear provoking experiences at bay. In the end, the correlation between the interrelated roles of both superheroes and medical staff made sense to this child and ultimately, it helped to transform what could have been a somewhat difficult explanation into a simple and very cool conversation. Salute to me fellow Child Life Specialists, superheroes changing the lives of children one interaction at a time!

Improving Patient Satisfaction: Quick Tips for Medical Providers

25 Nov

Joint Commission (JCAHO) reviews & (HCAHPS Scores) are key tools both medical departments and patients alike use to analyze the overall success of a medical organization. As the frustration over healthcare costs and treatment continue to rise, these evaluation instruments are becoming increasingly important as patients nationwide are formally documenting their medical experience and beginning to include these tools in their decision-making process.

Patients and families are now heading online, reviewing the experiences of others, and “comparison shopping.” What differentiates your private practice from the doctor next door? How do you improve the overall experience for patients you serve, on a limited budget? Through my work as a Child Life Therapist, the following are just three quick tips which have been utilized and proven to not only ease course of treatment, but improve patient satisfaction as well.

Improve waiting times: One of the single most important ways to improve the patient experience begins in the waiting room. In emergency rooms, clinics, and even private practice settings some wait time is anticipated. However, excessively long wait times can very quickly lead to loud, angry, frustrated patients. Additionally, in situations such as this, patients who attempt to speak with medical staff are often kept in the dark as to the cause(s) of “the hold up.”

While rushing through patient visits or divulging private information (as explanations to waiting patients) are not the answer, there are a few helpful solutions. Many medical providers have reworked the way in which patients are scheduled (to avoid overcrowding). Treatment clinics are developing and implementing mechanisms to alert patients to unexpected changes in wait time. These mechanisms also come with a “script” (simple prompts) for staff when engaging patients regarding wait time. Finally, arriving on time for scheduled appointments is also key. Though you would think it would go without saying, it’s surprising how many patients are left twiddling their thumbs in the waiting rooms, all while the medical provider is not in the office or on hospital premises.

Distraction for Children: This distraction can come in the form of small play items to entertain children while they wait, or formal therapeutic distraction / procedural support from a Child Life Therapist for frightened children once they are called into the exam room. Simply put, calm children many times translates to calmer parents as well.

Past the Clinical Touch: In my work experience, patients who reported most positively on their medical experience often did so when medical providers appeared to go “above and beyond” standard clinical expectations. Examples of this include, taking a quick moment to: form a personable rapport, explain complicated medical jargon, involve the patient / family fully in treatment decisions, respect cultural differences, or provide / refer holistic treatment options.

Overall, patients report higher satisfaction scores when they are kept informed, given choices, and treated as a whole individual whose physical treatment and emotional needs are equally important. Ultimately, when in doubt, the tenants of Patient / Family Centered Care are a wonderful guide.

Medication – Quick tips & Advice for Parents

7 Nov

For many caregivers, the thought of using medical strength medications (often called meds) on children can be somewhat nerve-wracking. Question such as: “WHAT were those pills called again?” .. “HOW much did the nurse say she was planning to give my child?” .. “Is this medication REALLY necessary?” or  ”What if my child just doesn’t want to take it?” are just some of the common questions parents often ask. Below are a few quick tips that can take the pressure off of stressful medicine related situations.

Bring comfort items from home: These items can be life savers in a tense situation, especially when a child is feeling scared about a new hospital environment or upcoming test/procedure. Through my work as a Child Life Therapist, I’ve found that a comforted child soothed by a familiar security or play item, may require less anti-anxiety/or calming medicine during a
hospital stay or prior to a procedure.

Involvement: For older school-aged children and adolescents, getting them involved in their care through honest conversations and decision making (when possible) can be a great way to have them “buy into” and take ownership of their treatment. This is also helpful for a child who is refusing to take their medication.

Talk it Out: Ask medical staff to take a moment and explain to your child (depending on age) the medicine’s “job,” how it will work in their bodies, why its necessary, and how long will it be have to be taken. This is a great way to again, get children involved. They are more likely to cooperate with medicine taking if they have some information, as opposed to simply forcing it in their mouths or making them hold still for an IV because “I said so.” Also, by participating in the conversation, caregivers have the opportunity to also ask questions while getting a better sense of what their child understands as well.

Preparation: For some tests or procedures, depending on the age of the child, with enough preparation (such as medical play therapy) and parental support in the room, some children are able to remain calm enough where medications such as anesthesia (medicine used to cause children to sleep during procedures) are not necessary at all. Check in with your doctor, nurse, or Child Life Therapist to see if perhaps this is the case for your child.

Overall, while completely avoiding medication during a hospital stay can be very difficult, if not impossible, these four tips can help give you and your child choices and begin certain discussions with your medical team about medications.

*original image from (google images)

“We’re Here to Help” – Three Medical Professionals You Should Know When Visiting the Hospital

7 Nov

Children and families can enter the medical setting for a number of reasons. These events can be both planned and unplanned. While most are well acquainted with their doctor (primary care physician), in many hospitals, there are additional staff members who can provide individualized services for families in need as well. They are able to answer specific questions, provide or coordinate much-needed resources, and frame medical information in a clear, understandable way. Listed below are three important medical professionals who can be of assistance.

1: Certified Child Life Specialist / Therapist (CCLS): These professionals, are specifically trained in child development and often work to help children and families cope once they enter the medical environment. A CCLS can utilize clinical education or play therapy sessions to explain some of the medical terms often used by other medical professionals in a developmentally appropriate way. Additionally they are able to prepare children for tests or procedures that may be stressful or scary, and even accompany kids into procedural room to provide distraction (with parents permission). Finally, a CCLS, together with the larger
pediatric department, often coordinates fun activities and programming meant to make a hospital stay more enjoyable.

2: Social Worker (SW / LMSW): These professionals are also able to provide clinical counseling sessions for patients in need. Additionally, a social worker can also help coordinate a safe discharge after hospitalization by working with the medical team to ensure specific resources (such as prescriptions, home care, medical equipment, and ongoing emotional support) are
in place within a family’s community when the go home.

3: Patient Advocates: These professionals are able to help families who find themselves in difficult situations and are unsure of their rights while in the hospital. Patient advocates are able to: provide a written version of your particular hospital’s “Patient’s Bill of Rights” and explain its meaning, ensure that all services are provided in your primary language, and even advocate on behalf of a family if they become uncertain of the level of care they are receiving.

Overall, as medical staff, we are here to help as best we can. When in doubt on where to turn, a nearby medical receptionist or clerk can point you in the right direction or alert the appropriate personnel to your needs.

Questions about Child Life Internships!

7 Nov

The following was asked by Child Life student “Caitiefab” on my former Tumblr account on 10/10/11:

“Hi I’m a child life student in nj getting ready to apply for internships & graduation! This site has been soooo helpful, I love what you’re doing! Do you have tips or advice for me as I look for an internship? It’s been difficult so

Hello Caitiefab,

Thank you for taking the time to stop by and read some of my posts. I’m so glad that you’ve found then to be helpful! If you have any ideas or topics that you would like me to discuss, please let me know. I’m here to help. Now, on to your questions : ]

You said that you are prepping for graduation as well as beginning the process of looking for internships. Below are a couple of tips that I’ve found to be very helpful for both myself and others:

1) During your search, have you had the help of your school or advising office? I ask only because for many students, the process of gaining internships often becomes much easier when they appear to have the backing/support of the school they attend. Many Child Life programs like to have a school reference point. For example: “Oh yes, student (name), attends (school name) .. I spoke with her adviser the other day” comes across a lot better than you yourself making a few random “cold calls” to their office on a Monday morning.

2) Consider volunteering. Many Child Life internships are looking for students who have some experience with children in the medical setting. Often times, volunteer services for pediatrics are directly linked to the Child Life program for that particular hospital. When contacting volunteer services (which may be much easier to do if you are looking for / searching for internships on your own), inquire about Child Life. You may end up getting much needed volunteer hours out of the way while finding a direct contact to Child Life staff at the same time!

3) Have you joined the “Child Life Council? As you may know, they are the governing body of the Child Life profession and they have a wealth of information, including seeking an internship (http://www.childlife.org/StudentsInternsEducators/InternshipCandidates/index.cfm). The official membership fee for current students is discounted and believe me, when you are ready to study for your certification exam or look for job in the field, council membership will be a great thing to have!

Those would be my top three tips for you. I hope they guide you toward the internship you are looking for.

Best of luck,