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March is Child Life Month

Staff offers support, guidance to parents

by Tara Sampson
Child Life Department
The Child Life Department at MUSC Children’s Hospital strives to meet the unique psychosocial and emotional needs of pediatric patients. Child life specialists promote normalcy, offer play opportunities, and provide medical preparation to help children cope with hospitalization, medical procedures and stress related to medical experiences.
Health-care encounters are an inevitable part of childhood and can range in intensity and duration. During Child Life Month, the Child Life Department offers this top 10 list to help MUSC staff and parents provide support and preparation for children.

Top 10 ways to prepare children for medical encounters
1. Preparation should include accurate information. Information surrounding the medical experience should be accurate, but communicated in terms the child can understand.

2. Include a support person when possible. Speaking with a parent prior to the encounter can help you gain a cooperative and supportive member of the team. As a parent, advocate involvement with procedures whenever possible.

3. Eliminate anticipatory anxiety time. Waiting for a procedure often gives children an opportunity to become anxious. Providing opportunities for redirection during the wait time can help children avoid dwelling on an upcoming procedure.

4. Honesty is highly important.
Tell children the truth about the medical experience.

5. Remember that children overhear and observe more than you realize.

6. Try to avoid language that could be frightening, confusing or is too technical. Give children age-appropriate information directly related to what they will experience during the medical encounter.

7. Provide children with choices and coping strategies to increase involvement. Providing children with a role or job during a procedure can have a powerful impact on their ability to cooperate and listen. Discuss these with children prior to the procedure and offer an opportunity to rehearse their role in a non-threatening environment. Some examples of coping strategies could include watching or looking away; sitting on the caregiver's lap; or singing a song. When available, give the patient choices. Allowing children to choose an arm for an injection, or a color of a band-aid can offer children a sense of control that can reduce their anxiety.

8. Acknowledge the child’s feelings. Reflective listening and affirming statements allow children to feel heard and reassured. Take your cues from the child and acknowledge their feelings and responses throughout the procedure. Avoid talking children out of their feelings with statements like, “That did not hurt;” or “You are being dramatic.”

9. Frequently reassure the child with encouraging statements and praise.
Naturally, children may become upset during a medical procedure. No matter how emotional they become, children need praise and positive encouragement.

10. Advocate for the use of the treatment room and appropriate caregiver roles. The patient’s hospital room should remain “safe” from procedures when possible. Advocate for use of a treatment room on units for medical procedures. Caregivers should be present during procedures to provide emotional support. However, parents should never be asked to hold down their child. Parents should remain a symbol of safety, too.
The Child Life Department provides support to patients, families and staff related to their experiences in the Children’s Hospital. Whether you are an MUSC staff member providing medical care to a pediatric patient, or a parent providing emotional support to a child during a doctor visit, this preceding list offers some tools to promote a positive experience for all involved. For more information, call 792-8805.


Friday, March 27, 2009

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