If you’ve ever had to take your child to the hospital, you know how scary it can be – both for you and for them.
The Department of Pediatrics at Jamaica Hospital understands the anxiety and fear children experience. Whether visiting the emergency room with a broken leg or being admitted for a severe asthma attack, the hospital can be a frightening place.
To help kids better cope with their health conditions and hospitalizations, Jamaica Hospital’s child life specialists have become an integral part of pediatric patient care.
Child life specialists are trained professionals with experience in child development and family systems. Through play, preparation, education and self-expression, they provide emotional support and assistance to help children who:
• Need preparation for an invasive procedure, such as shots and IV
• Are crying, fighting, or hiding to avoid having an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI taken
• Have expressed their fears
• Are having difficulty taking their medications
• Are newly diagnosed with a chronic illness
• Are going to be admitted for injuries from a traumatic situation, such as a fire or car accident
• Have been abused
In addition, child life specialists provide emotional support to parents, siblings and other family members, as well as educate caregivers, administrators and the public about the needs of children under stress.
“Jamaica Hospital’s team of child life specialists added comfort and joy to our hospital stay,” said Odalis Lugo, whose son was admitted to the hospital for asthma. “They were able to take my son’s mind off of how sick he was, and they did it in a friendly and helpful manner.”
“Having a child life specialist in a hospital is comforting and reassuring. We are committed to improving the well-being of the hospital’s smallest patients,” added Sarah Wassenbergh, certified child life specialist at Jamaica Hospital.
Recently, the hospital won a grant to further support its child life services. The grant will enable the unit to hire a full-time child life specialist for its pediatric playroom and emergency room. It will also ensure that a child life specialist is available on the weekends as well. The hospital currently boasts three child life specialists, who primarily work on weekdays, in the pediatric playroom.