The health care environment brings with it many new and sometimes stressful experiences for children, teenagers, and families. Our Child Life staff at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital at the UVM Medical Center work with patients and their families to help them understand and cope with these experiences. We provide opportunities for children to grow and develop normally while in the hospital, we prepare patients and families for procedures, and we help them cope with all aspects of their health care experiences.
- Developmentally appropriate preparation to help patients and siblings understand and cope with upcoming medical procedures and health care experiences.
- Education and rehearsal of coping skills to help children control pain, deal with anxiety, or cope with medical procedures.
- For example, Child Life Specialists educate families and staff about comfort positions, child friendly language, age appropriate coping techniques and medical explanations based on the child’s developmental level.
- Support during medical procedures to create and utilize coping techniques.
- Emotional support is offered to pediatric patients and families as well as queuing patients, families and staff about coping techniques that have been rehearsed and planned prior to the procedure. Distraction tools are helpful with lowering anxiety levels during procedures. Child Life has a variety of distraction tools encompassing all of the senses; music, bubbles, light fans, eye-spy boards, rain sticks, aromatherapy, etc.
- Medical and therapeutic play to allow children to become more familiar with medical equipment and procedures, and encourage expression of feelings.
- Medical play allows pediatric patients the opportunity to explore medical supplies and gain a feeling of control over their hospital environment. The pediatric patient is “the doctor or nurse” during this experience. Child Life Specialists are available to answer questions and clarify any misconceptions that occur during the play. Medical play can be one-on-one or in a group session such as “Teddy Bear Clinic” which occurs weekly in the pediatric playroom.
- Playroom programming to promote healing, creativity, peer interaction, and independence, which are all vital to normal growth and development.
- Special events.
- End of Life and bereavement support.
There are currently seven Certified Child Life Specialists that work regularly in the Vermont Children’s Hospital inpatient unit , pediatric intensive care unit, Comfort Zone (pediatric sedation area), Pre-Operative area, Radiology, Children’s Specialty Center and Emergency Department. We provide care to children and families in all areas of the hospital where children are treated.
We are available to children and families at the Children’s Hospital Monday through Friday, 6:30am to 8:30pm, and Saturday 8:00am to 4:30pm. You can also call us at 802- 847-4913.
Jennifer Eddy and Kathy O’Reilly are Child Life Specialists at Vermont Children’s Hospital.