Posts tagged ‘child life’
Editor’s Note: March is Child Life Awareness Month. Penn State Hershey thanks its Child Life team for the work they do every day with our youngest patients. This story is a look at what the child life specialists add to the Penn State Hershey experience and how our patients appreciate their involvement in their care. View the “A day in Child Life” photo album.
Hospitals can be scary places for children.
Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital has a team of certified child life specialists (CCLSs) who help children feel comfortable and safe—to help them understand that the doctors and nurses want to help them get better.
While their days may seem filled with toys, games and a whole lot of Playdoh, the role of a child life specialist is so much more.
“Child life addresses the psycho-social, emotional, and developmental needs of pediatric patients and families in any kind of health care setting,” said Ashley Kane, Child Life manager.
Child life specialists are constantly on the go and reprioritizing when things do not go as planned. A day in Child Life looks something like this:
Surgical child life specialist Kate Denlinger arrives in the Children’s Hospital pre-op unit to prepare young patients for surgical procedures. “Kids come to the hospital for surgery for really simple things and things that are life changing like spinal fusions or open heart surgeries,” she says. “My kid needs that kind of care sometimes – so I try to make the hospital as normal as I can, and I try to familiarize them with all of the things they are about to see.
“There’s a lot of research that says if kids know what they’re about to experience, they’re more willing to participate in their care than they are to have things done to them,” she says.
Among her patients today is 5-year-old Kaitlyn Teeter, who relies on regular surgical procedures to help with breathing and allow her to eat properly.
“She’s really special in the sense that this is like her second home and she knows all of us,” Kate says.
It was just after 10 a.m. and Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital was abuzz with excited shrieks and giggles as children of all ages were celebrating “Superhero Monday.” They waited on the edge of their seats, looking out the window, anxiously asking, “What time is it now, Mommy?” Finally, the much-anticipated superheroes rappelled down the side of the building.
“They’re real! They’re real!” exclaimed one little boy from the lawn below.
“Did you see that?! That’s crazy!” another said with a giggle.
Up on the fourth floor of the Children’s Hospital, children and their families crowded the windows, giving high-fives and fist-bumps to Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and Captain America through the glass. The room was filled with shouts of “I see him…! “Spiderman!” “Batman!” “Whoa!”
For Chloe, a Hershey resident visiting her brother, Batman was her favorite. “I gave him a fist-bump!” she said with a grin.
Jackson, from Fairfield, Pa., was ecstatic to fist-bump all four of the superheroes. “Fist-bumps are better than high-fives,” he explained. “I gave Spiderman, Batman, Captain America, and Superman all fist-bumps!” As the four superheroes descended to the floors below, Jackson rushed outside with his mom to meet them on the lawn. He even made it back inside in time to see the four rappel down the side of the building for a second time. This time he was ready to snap a picture. (more…)
Penny is a small, fuzzy gray bear with deep brown eyes who wears pink overalls with heart-shaped buttons. She has a floppy hat with an equally pink flower. Her first memory was waking up at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital nestled among her other bear and animal friends who were available for adoption at the Teddy Bear Clinic at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital.
Penny and her friends were in Hershey to celebrate Child Life week and to help the Child Life specialists talk to the children about their fears of hospitals and going to the doctor. Child Life specialist Carrie Myers, who organized the event, works in the emergency department and sees scared little patients all the time.
“This is a time when we, as Child Life Specialists and other medical professionals can address misconceptions children have about the hospital or medical procedures,” she said. “It also teaches them that the hospital can be a fun, safe place.”
Clara and Laura Wade (ages 3 and 1) from Williamsport, Pa, whose new baby brother was born with a ‘broken’ heart that the doctors needed to fix, took home two of Penny’s friends, Bear and Dog. The girls listened to their new friends’ heartbeats and took their temperatures as they visited the stations where nurses and therapists helped them give their bears checkups. They saw many of the same instruments that the staff uses when taking care of 14-day-old Timothy after his open heart surgery. Their dad, Martin, hoped the experience would help the girls understand their brother’s surgery and recovery. “I told them baby brother’s heart was broken and had to be fixed,” he said. “I think this will help them when he’s getting poked and prodded, to know that It’s all to make him healthy, not hurt him.”
When you walk into a room filled with smiles, laughter, toys, games, and an over-all atmosphere of fun, it’s easy to forget you’re in a hospital.
That is exactly the goal of the Child Life Program at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. Child Life offers patients support through its programming, including a fall visit from Olympic gold medalist Jamie Gray. Originally from nearby Lebanon, Pa., Gray was inspired to visit Hershey by the young patients she met at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Baton Rouge, La.
Much to the delight of the Hershey children and their families, Gray recently participated in their weekly BINGO game, spending time with families and answering questions about the Olympics. Sharing her gold medal in 50-meter rifle three position, she didn’t even mind when one little friend got chocolate from his hands on it.
Gray was touched by the children’s resiliency, especially after watching her mother, Karen Beyerle, battle and defeat breast cancer.
“I think it’s amazing to see how happy they are going through so much adversity,” she said. “I think they’re inspiring, honestly.”
It isn’t hard to see the difference Child Life makes with while watching 8 year-old Izaiah Robinson from Boalsburg, Pa., nearly running to the prize table, with a huge smile across his face. (more…)