Making Hospitals A Better Place For Kids

“A hospital can be a scary place. Help kids cope with stress and uncertainty is what child life specialists do. They asses needs and explain what is about to happen, using age-appropriate language and medial play. They calm fearful patients with relaxation and distraction techniques. Soon that scary place isn’t so scary anymore.”-Unknown

Imagine being ten and having a mom, dad, and three brothers under the age of nine. Then imagine yourself being very sick. Imagine that your toes and fingertips are falling off from necrosis, having an open wound the size of your hand on your stomach, and not having anyone there to help you and your family through this difficult time. A child life specialist is a pediatric health care professional who works with children and families in hospitals and various outpatient settings to help them cope with the challenges of hospitalization, illness, and disability. During this time the child life specialist could not help my family and me. That being said I have put my all into my future of becoming a child life specialist. I want to be there for them. I want to help children and their families the way that the child life specialist couldn’t for us.

   Child life specialists have been there for me when I was in the hospital and needed them. I became close with some of them, but sadly, not all of them.  When I was very sick and dying, the child life specialist was unable (possibly due to a lack of experience) to explain to me or my family about what was going on. The child life specialist was educated i.e. book smart however in the empathy department our needs were unmet as a family and as a patient.  Someone with similar experience could have provided what we desperately needed. Someone who understood the pain what my family was experiencing. Many child life specialists do not yet have the life experiences that would enable them be able to put themselves in their patients’ shoes. All the training in the world will not prepare them the same as having the life experience of being a child with a compromising health condition. They will always be there but the field of child life specialist is in need of more people with real life experiences of childhood traumatic illnesses.

 

I figured that I wanted to become a child life specialist at the young age of ten. I knew from a young age that I wanted to help children with health problems such as a pediatric rheumatologist, but that was too much school.  To become a child life specialist you need to have a baccalaureate degree which is four years of college. The idea of becoming a child life specialist had struck me because I have been sick for a long time that I knew I would help them. A child life specialist isn’t like a social worker or a doctor. They are someone who you can learn from and play with. They help relieve the stress that may be burden sick patient and family. Child life can help with explaining medical procedures and helping them understand what will happen. They can also travel to the patient’s school and explain to the classmates and teachers about what will happen at a level that is appropriate for children. They can also teach the patients and families skills that will help the, cope with the illness. After all I have had a traumatic illness since I was a baby, and grew up with three younger brothers. In my opinion I will be able to make child life specialist a better field just because I have been in the shoes of someone who has been ill. Many people will not be able to put themselves in that type of situation, but I will because I have been in that situation. Even though I can’t tell how the process of having someone with an illness was for my parents, brothers, friends, or loved ones affected them they have told me stories about how it affected them and I will be ready if that situation comes up for the patient and me. I hope the children will look up and trust me more because they and I have gone through similar circumstances. They will be able to look at me and be able to tell that I have had an illness. I know that my height will help them be able to trust me better than someone who is taller because they will think of me as their friend instead of someone who is trying to hurt them. I hope that I will be capable to help children with traumatic illness feel more comfortable in the hospital.

 

As you can see that my reasons for becoming a child life specialist is beyond a job or a chore for me. As I finish I leave this quote for you by B.J. Seabury “I’m not a therapist. Play isn’t just diagnosis or therapy. It’s these children’s right and their need.” It is my passion to help children feel more comfortable in the hospital I believe that I will be able to help my patient and their families more than someone else can just because I have been in their shoes. A child life did a lot for me, but they had a lack of experience that would have helped us to know that everything was going to be alright. I know my patients will feel more comfortable around me just because they will be able to trust me more and do have experience per say someone that is tall and does not understand what they are going through.

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