Positioning for Comfort

I’ve been going through resources on comfort positioning recently and rediscovered this video from Dell Children’s Medical Center.  Using comfort positions for procedures can make a huge difference in children’s level of anxiety and cooperation for new/scary medical procedures.  Being in a more upright position with a trusted parent or caregiver is a relatively quick and easy intervention with big benefits.  I love this video from Dell as it explains why comfort positioning is helpful, gives examples of positions for different procedures, and is presented by an awesome nurse from the emergency department (sometimes medical staff respond better to hearing from other providers).  Hope this resource helps those of you looking to increase the use of comfort positioning at your hospital!


Bo’s Place: Grief Support Volunteer

heart and hands

heart and hands

When I completed my child life internship I knew that it might take some time for me to find a child life position. My husband and I took turns pursuing our graduate education and so my job search was limited to Houston and nearby communities if we wanted to be able to live in the same city. I started searching for ways to continue learning about psychosocial care and build on the skills I gained during internship.  I learned about Bo’s Place, Houston’s non-profit grief support center, from another child life specialist.  I decided to train as a volunteer and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my professional journey.

What started out as an attempt to deepen my understanding of grief and bereavement became so much more.  I’ve volunteered for years now and plan on continuing for as long as I can and they will have me. I’ve facilitated in peer support groups for children from preschool age through teens.  I’ve been a camp counselor at their weekend family Camp Healing Hearts. I’ve gained so much from my time at Bo’s Place: friendships and professional connections with an amazing group of volunteer facilitators, training in grief and trauma, professional development workshops, and the opportunity to work with kids in an environment that is truly attuned to their needs.  Bo’s Place has been a warm and consistent space for me as I’ve navigated different jobs and new skills. It has become part of my sense of community and professional identity.

Bo’s Place follows a peer support group model for grief and bereavement.  The core of their programming focuses on children and families, but they also have groups for adults and pregnancy loss.  Services are free for participants and there is no “timeline” for their participation.  Regardless of the timing of the death, if the family is grieving and needs support, Bo’s Place will either offer them a space or help direct them to another community resource that might meet their needs.  As a child life specialist, it warms my heart to volunteer in a space that has a playroom, art room, music room, and “tornado” room (indoor space for active group games).  They recognize the need for children to play out their feelings in a safe space and make it a reality.

So, if you are looking for a rewarding volunteer experience, check out Bo’s Place or the grief support center in your community.  People often ask if it is sad to work with grieving children. Honestly, while it can occasionally be sad or emotionally intense, there is also a ton of laughter and a lot of playfulness. Bo’s Place is a hopeful space; families see that they are not alone, get to share memories and feelings, and learn to cope.

If you are interested in applying to become a volunteer facilitator, please read more about it here.


Photo Credit: Luke Saagi via Flickr

Peer Video Support

One of the most difficult things for many patients in the hospital is feeling alone in their experiences.  Knowing there are other youth out there going through similar procedures and treatments can help.  While I try to foster lots of face-to-face socialization, sometimes patients want specific knowledge or I don’t have a good “peer match” for them at the hospital at the right time.  In these cases technology and social media offer wonderful resources. Today, I was looking for a video to share with a patient at the hospital that was apprehensive about the possibility of getting a nasogastric (NG) tube.  You Tube to the rescue! I found a great video by Natalie (gbasp10), a young teen girl, demonstrating how she inserts an ng-tube (nasogastric tube). In the video, Natalie gathers equipment, explains the process, offer tips and gives practical and accurate advice.  I was impressed with her confident delivery and demonstration.  When combined with hands-on teaching and preparation, peer-to-peer videos can be a powerful tool in helping patients cope with new medical experiences.

Thanks Natalie for sharing your video and experience with others!

New Child Life App

iPhone Screenshot 1

The child life team at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Media Kube just released a wonderful app for the iPad and iPhone called Simply Sayin’.  The app is designed to guide health professionals and parents in explaining medical information to children. The app includes a child friendly medical glossary, simple procedural prep guides, illustrations of anatomy/medical devices, sounds and pictures of machines like MRI.  The illustrations are child-friendly while still being detailed and true-to-life.  I can tell this app will get a lot of use on my iPad and I think it is a wonderful resource for parents.  Kudos to child life in Phoenix for creating such an awesome teaching tool! It’s currently available for FREE over at the iTunes store: Simply Sayin’

Feelings Book

express yourself

express yourself

I’ve neglected the blog for a while and I’ve missed it!  I feel like 2013 is moving at warp speed.  I’m trying to stop and pay attention to the things I enjoy along the way and prescription for play is part of that process.  I enjoy having a place to share child life thoughts, tools and techniques.

When I first started my current job, I worked with a patient (I’ll call her Sarah) that needed a lot of child life support.  She was a very bright school age child with extensive rehab needs.  I spent lots of time with Sarah during treatments, procedures and therapies as she had a lot of anxiety and sometimes would have meltdowns.  We did a lot of medical play, art and open-ended doll play. Sarah had a lot of mixed emotions, particularly anger and sadness.  One of the activities that really helped her identify and eventually talk about these emotions was creating a feelings book.  I created a simple folded book for her called “My Book of Feelings”.  It was a great way to begin a conversation on different emotions and I have since used it with several patients.  Now, I’m sharing it here with you.

It is a very basic book that is geared toward patients 5-10yrs.  The patient has a space to decorate  the front cover and then on the inside page it says “Sometimes I feel…”.  Each page has an emotion: happy, sad, angry, silly, worried, etc.  I tried to alternate “positive” and “negative” emotions.  The patient can draw, write and respond to the emotion on the page in any way they like.  You can provide guidance with statements/questions like “you can draw or write what happy feels like to you”, “if happy were a color, what color would it be?”, “If happy were a song, what song would it be?”.  This book is already set up for 2-sided printing (you might have to play with the printer settings for which way it flips pages for duplex printing).  You can hole punch and tie with string or staple to bind it.  You can download the book here: My Book of Feelings

All About Me Posters

you don't say!

you don’t say!

It’s 2013? Really?

At the hospital we have been reviewing policies, completing end-of-year paperwork,  setting goals and lots of other administrative stuff.  I’ve felt a bit buried in paper and meetings.  While not my favorite time of year or favorite part of my job, it is necessary and will help Child Life grow at my little hospital.  In the midst of this I’ve designed a few fun things lately and thought I’d share with everyone here on the blog.  I’ve created two “all about me” posters for use with patients.  They are generic enough that they could also be used with siblings.  One poster has a star border and was created with school-age kids in mind, and the other has a comic book feel and was created for teens.  The teen one is title “Get to know…” because I felt that sounded a little more age-appropriate.  Both posters are formatted for printing on 11×17 (tabloid) size paper but can easily be used and printed on 8.5×11 paper.  As always, I am making these freely available for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons license.  I hope that these prove useful and I’d love to hear from you in the comments section if you use them with patients.  Happy 2013!

Photo Credit:  Mohammed Alnaser via Flickr

More resources to talk to kids about scary news

televisions everywhere

televisions everywhere

Our nation is trying to understand what happened during the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut yesterday.  As we learn more about this terrible event there will continue to be constant media coverage of the shooting.  Children and teens may express concern, fear or anxiety over what they see or hear about the event.  It can be difficult for caregivers to know what to say or how to respond when kids have questions.  Luckily, many organizations have created resources and guides to help promote supportive conversations. I posted a link yesterday to the toolkit from Sesame Workshop which is geared toward children under 5.  I wanted to share a few more resources that might serve a wider audience.  Here’s a great page from PBS Parents:

I received an email from Bo’s Place, a non-profit grief support center, that shared links to some really good resources for talking with kids about a tragedy.  I think that these webpages would work well as parent handouts to place in a family lounge or educational bulletin board.  While the information is geared toward helping kids cope with a national tragedy, the advice is also just good information on how to have conversations and provide support when kids express worries or fears.  Here are the links I received from Bo’s Place:

Let’s reach out and share information on how to help kids express feelings and cope.  Please feel free to share other resources in comments.

Photo Credit: Trey Ratcliff via Flickr