Testimonials from Certified Child Life Specialists

Overcoming Anxiety...

When I arrived to lab, I found a highly anxious 7 year old and her mother in the waiting room. I provided encouragement to focus on today being a “new day” with a “new plan” to help her complete her “blood test.” We built a rapport and she was cooperative with walking to the exam room, despite hesitance and many signs of heightened anxiety. Once in the room, her anxiety escalated and it was difficult to gain compliance. The patient’s mother had noted they were there the day before for 4 hours and they had to left with the hope that the next day would go better with child life, per the lab tech’s recommendation. The mother was very adamant about getting the lab work done today, as it was important to see how her body was metabolizing different medications. She noted she needed lab work for two services and Latasha was amazing about taking initiative to contacting the other provide for orders to consolidate cares (she was also incredibly patient and used great language!) There was brief mentioning of bundling and after about an hour of support, we finally got the patient moved to the chair (thanks to mother’s help) to sit on her lap. She did amazing. We used pain ease spray, but I don’t even think she flinched thanks to being so distracted by playing a game on the iPad and blocking her line of sight. Afterwards, I provided a lot of praise and utilized teach back. Her beaming smile showed how proud she was! The patient’s mother was very relieved and also appreciative she would be able to open up their restaurant on time.

-- Certified Child Life Specialist

The Power of Play...

The power of play was highlighted during an IV start for a two year old. Earlier the resident had seen me finger painting with the patient and said it was nice that we had child life to entertain children. I reminded her that I was also building rapport. That same resident walked into the treatment room during the IV start with an alternative plan for rescue medications since we probably couldn’t get an IV on “such an uncooperative patient.” Only to realize I had prepared the patient and through our trust he didn’t even require bundling just a little more play and the patient even tolerated multiple attempts with only tears and few “ok, ok, ok.”

-- Certified Child Life Specialist

From the ER...

When I walked into the Emergency Room at the beginning of my shift, a nurse immediately said to me “Oh good, you’re here!” There was a 5 year old girl who needed an IV placed and was pretty nervous about it. When I opened the patient’s door she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said ‘Are you going to do it?’ I told her I would not touch her and my job was to teach with my voice.

With hesitation she allowed me to enter her room and kneel next to her so we could talk about her IV. I was able to show her all of the medical supplies we use and how each step of the procedure would feel like for her. The longer we talked, the more comfortable and confident she became about the entire process. Once she verbalized her understanding of the IV we began discussing her coping plan. Her mom’s role became very important because the patient decided mom’s job was to stand next to her and hold her hand the whole time. We were also going to look at a My Little Pony Ispy book so that she didn’t have to watch the IV going in. With the patient’s permission I left to tell the nurse she was ready and that we had a plan.

The patient was calm and cooperative during the entire procedure because she knew exactly what she was going to feel and what the next step was. When the IV was in and I told her she was all finished, the patient looked up at me and with a surprised expression and told me that it was easy. Her mom was even more thankful and surprised than the patient. She could not believe her daughter was able to do it without needing to be held down or screaming and crying. I told her again that my job is to make being at the hospital and everything that happens here as easy as possible.

In this situation, our patient felt empowered and successfully was able to cope with a challenging situation. Her mother's anxiety and stress was significantly decreased and she was a key component in helping her daughter deal with something very difficult. Our nurses were able to focus on quickly and safely performing the procedure in order to provide the best medical care to the patient.

-- Certified Child Life Specialist

A Blood Draw Success Story...

I got a call from a Mom who was desperate to find someone to help her 10 year old daughter cooperate for a blood draw. The patient had not been followed by any of our providers at the hospital in two years, but Mom didn’t know where else to go for help. Her daughter has a mood disorder and was prescribed lithium to help her regulate her emotions and behavior. The lithium had been helping her, but she had to go off it because she would not comply with the monthly blood draws needed to monitor her blood concentration while on the medication. In the past the patient had very traumatic experiences with getting blood work where she was held down by numerous people. The patient was now refusing to complete blood work and Mom was reluctant to have staff hold her down again to get it done. I spoke with Mom on the phone and together we develop a plan for helping the patient get over her needle-phobia. Mom and the patient came to visit me at the hospital to develop a coping plan and strategy for successfully completing blood work in the future.

The patient was very slow to warm up and engage with me. It took 30 minutes of non-threatening conversation and play before the patient would even discuss a coping plan with me. We developed a plan to help her cope with the blood draws which included deep breathing, squeezing a stress ball, engaging in alternative focus with preferred I-Pad game, holding vibration near the needle site, and using positive self-talk when she feels nervous. We also planned to have her primary care doctor prescribe her a topical numbing agent that they would apply before the blood draw visit.  I modeled the steps of the blood draw and the coping strategies using a puppet and then I engaged the patient in medical play with the props for the blood draw. Over the next week we completed two mock blood draws in the lab with the same phlebotomist each time, so the patient could familiarize herself to the staff she would meet and the steps of the blood draw while practicing the coping strategies we had discussed.

On the day of the actual blood draw the patient was calm and cooperative leading up to the blood draw, but got a little anxious right before the needle insertion. I helped her refocus on distraction and taking deep breaths while the phlebotomist slid the needle under her skin. The patient was surprised that the needle was already in and couldn’t stop laughing and smiling. She expressed how happy and proud of herself she was once the blood draw was complete. I continued to support the patient for her next several blood draws. Each time the patient became less anxious and more confident in her ability to cope with her anxiety during the blood draws. The patient was able to go back on Lithium. Mom called me to thank me for helping them and updated me that home life has been much easier for them since the patient was able to go back on Lithium.

-Jennifer Staab, CCLS