Working as a Child Life Specialist in a one-person program can bring it’s joys and it’s challenges. Collaboration, advice, supervision, and mentorship must come from outside of my work setting. One big challenge that I have run into recently has been finding coverage and developing a game plan for when I am gone on maternity leave.
If you are following my Give Play Love Instagram account (@give.play.love), you will know that I am expecting my first baby, a little girl, in June. I am so excited but I am also nervous and sad to be away from work, leaving the clinic without any Child Life support. The original and ideal plan was to hire an interim child life specialist to cover my time away, but alas, add that to the list of things that this COVID-19 pandemic put a wrench in (RIP Child Life Month 2020). While disappointing, the lack of in-person coverage over my maternity leave has presented an interesting, yet almost welcome challenge for how I view my role as a child life specialist. It’s forced me to think outside of the box: How can I provided services to families and kids without being physically present? I realized that this is a question I could have been and should have been asking myself all along.
Pre-Coronavirus, our pediatric ENT doctor averages seeing anywhere from 30-50 kids a day. This does not include the other doctors who see both adults and children, the allergy clinic, or speech services. There is no way that a single child life specialist would be able to see every patient and provide intervention, support, or preparation for every child. In preparing for my maternity leave, I have been thinking about how materials developed to help cover my absence will be able to expand resources and supports to reach even more patients once I return to work.
General ENT Exams
In our clinic, we utilize comfort holds almost exclusively. Comfort holds in the world of ENT look a little bit different, simply due to the need for the patient’s head to be held completely still. Communicating how to effectively use a comfort hold can be difficult to communicate to parents, especially when a child life specialist is not available before hand to prepare them. I am working on creating a comfort hold poster that can be put up throughout the clinic. This will give parents a visual model for how to help support and comfort their child during their ENT exam in a non-threatening way.
——> Goal: To create a comfort hold poster to provide a model for non-threatening ways to comfort their child, while allowing for an easier ENT exam.
In our clinic, we have a well-established support system for patients who will be scheduled for surgery. We have produced and printed prep books for kids and teens having surgery. In addition, we have a guide that walks parents through how to talk to their kids before surgery. This resource includes developmentally-specific responses and common concerns, in addition to suggestions for responding to fears and misconceptions that may arise. I also regularly use a coloring booklet from the American Society of Anesthesiologists (Linked below). My biggest focus with surgery preparation coverage has been working with my teammates; nurses, scheduling staff, etc. to have these materials readily available for them to grab and give to parents and kids when their surgery is scheduled.
——> Goal: To revamp the surgery handout for parents + ensure easy access for families (i.e. accessibility in clinic and ability to access materials on our website)
Allergy + Immunotherapy Support
I have been working on building a child life support system for kids and families in our allergy clinic. This includes developing informational handouts to help prepare kids and teens for their allergy testing, along with activity sheets, including some emotional debriefing journal prompts for patients to work on while they are waiting during their test.
In addition to support and education for allergy testing, I am working to create a resource guide for patients who choose to take the immunotherapy treatment route for their allergies. Immunotherapy includes injections 3-5 times a week for 1-3 years at a time. Resources for immunotherapy would include a pain-management tool kit with tips for non-pharmacological pain management for families to use at home. This toolkit will include breathing techniques, guided imagery, distraction options, numbing cream options and gate theory tools (i.e. Buzzy Bee or ShotBlocker).
——> Goal: To create resources and preparation materials for allergy testing and immunotherapy treatment + ensure easy access for families (i.e. accessibility in clinic and ability to access materials on our website). Additionally to create a pain-management toolkit for families and patients completing immunotherapy treatment.
Video Strobe + Speech Evaluations
I have continued to work with our pediatric SLP in office to create resources and supports for patients needing a speech evaluation that includes nasometery and/or a nasopharengoscopy (video strobe). These supports include a visual scheduled with customization coping plan (shout-out to lamination and velcro!) as well as a prize box for positive reinforcement of effective coping + cooperation. I would also like to work on developing an educational handout that helps prepare kids for their video strobe.
——> Goal: To create a video, or handout (available in clinic or online) + ensure availability for visual schedule/coping plan and prize box for use with patients.
Have any further suggestions? I would LOVE to hear them! Comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.