The diversity in the neighborhood, in both language and cultural traditions, can pose challenges when providing patient care. "There is so much which can be lost in translation and we constantly have to remind ourselves of the effects body language can have on communicating with patients and families." Though there are some on-site translators, the staff relies heavily on translation via telephone or video calls.
As a native Spanish speaker, Nicole can easily establish a connection with the predominantly Hispanic/Latino demographic. But, there are still challenges when it comes to religious or cultural practices due to the vast variety within the Latino community. She experiences even greater challenges with patients of Asian descent, the second most common patient population. There are numerous languages spoken, compounded with multiple dialects, and many religious affiliations. It can be hard to communicate with parents in conversation, trying to provide development information or asking about different milestones the child may/may not have mastered.
"Let's face it, the term 'Child Life Specialist' doesn't really translate well into any language (even with Spanish you could get puzzled looks), but luckily play is universal and at least that initial rapport can be built before bringing in any additional translation services." Nicole tries to simplify phrases, using tangible examples, picture demonstrations, and repeating herself to clarify that parents are understanding. In-person interactions are now kept to a minimum (if any at all) due to the coronavirus and Nicole is adapting to provide care for patients remotely.
While bereavement support is a service child life normally provides, it is done a bit differently now. Despite being a small program, child life here has always taken the 'extra mile' approach with compassionate interactions often ending in hugs and heartfelt exchanges with patients and staff alike. Due to the infectious nature of the pandemic, patients and families are communicating with child life remotely and resources are being provided by phone, mail and/or email. Normally child life at Elmhurst is very hands-on and unfortunately, there isn’t a space for that right now.
Typically, child life along with other psychosocial care staff, assist families in creating precious mementos to cherish memories of the loved one. Now, parents are being encouraged to engage children in legacy making activities at home, which may or may not have that same long-lasting effect as when it is done alongside hospital staff. While the work continues to be individualized and focused on family-centered care, it has changed in nature, because of the ongoing situation.