The mind of a child is far different than the mind of an adult. A life of pretend play and make believe seems so carefree and fun.
However, what happens when that child is faced with a scary or uncertain event, such as a hospitalization or invasive procedure?
These are situations that I, and other child life specialists, face each day while working with the kids at Texas Children’s Hospital. As a child life specialist, I have studied child development so that I can help kids cope with being in the hospital. My focus is on helping patients understand in an age-appropriate way what they will experience while in the hospital.
As I begin my day, I race around the unit, gathering information on the upcoming procedures for our patients. “A first IV start for little Billy? Wait,” I tell the nurse, “I am going to go get a stuffed bunny that he can practice the steps of the procedure.”
I engage the patients in play to help build a trusting relationship and teach them. By using play, the patient can rehearse the sequence of events of an IV start on a stuffed bunny, or a favorite lovey brought from home. The patient is able to practice coping skills and display signs of mastery and confidence. This helps the patient have a more positive experience. So now, little Billy is able to sit still, holding his bunny with an IV placed, remembering the steps and the skills he just practiced.
My unique role in the hospital is to help the family unit through medical experiences, by developing coping strategies and teaching children how to get through seemingly challenging situations. Whether it is a career or a calling, this role has been and will continue to be rewarding.