I recently had a pre-school patient be very anxious about getting an EKG. Simply explaining what an EKG is wasn’t enough for this concrete thinker, so we did some medical play! I brought in my teaching doll, Eliza, and we practiced putting foam shapes on Eliza’s chest. He got to place the stickers and remove them afterwards. We also made sure to tell Eliza the rule about laying still like a statue so the computer can make sure the stickers are on right & listen to his heart! Then, we put some stickers on ourselves & practiced laying still like a statue. Once I saw that he was more comfortable with the stickers and holding still, I showed him the silly stickers the nurse was going to use & assured him that they we just little sticky stickers like my foam shapes. During the EKG I stuck around and reminded the patient to lay still like a statue just like Eliza & told him what a great job he was doing. The EKG was a success & my little guy did great!
I just recently got approval to use an iPad as a tool for distraction and education with my patients. I am so grateful to finally be able to use this amazing tool! Here are some of my favorite apps that I’ve been using:
Medi toons is my go-to app when doing appy teachings for older kids and parents. it’s a free app that shows videos about different (mostly gastro) conditions.
This app was recently reviewed by one of my favorite child life bloggers, child life mommy. It’s a [free] app that helps teach little ones to control their frustration by remembering to breathe, think, and then do!
Wellapets is an awesome [free] app about asthma! This interactive game does a great job of promoting asthma education in a fun way.
This is my go to app for MRI & CT scan teachings. Just last week I had a 9yo patient that was going to have an MRI. He’d had them before but was always been sedated for them. I showed him what the MRI machine sounded like with this app & thanks to that, he said he didn’t need any medicine to do his MRI this time. Thanks, Simply Sayin’!
Disney Junior Appisodes is a forever favorite. This app features familiar beloved characters in an interactive & colorful display. This is ideal for lengthy procedures & really engages children in the appisode.
Caillou’s check up app has been a very popular pick on my iPad. So popular I decided to splurge a bit ($4.99) and unlock all of the “levels” (you get the first level for free). With this app you’re able to help Caillou with his doctor’s office check up: taking his temperature, height, weight, etc.
I downloaded this app just as a filler to have more choices for my toddler population and for some reason it’s also been a very popular choice amongst my patients. It’s a simple free little app in which you’re given tasks to complete such as puzzles, picking the largest fish, picking the smallest fish, etc. while calming, ocean-themed music plays in the background. I’m very impressed with this app and it’s popularity!
And finally, Skylanders Lost Islands. This free app is VERY popular with wide age range of my male patients. It’s great for the younger ones because it plays a 4-5minute video upon starting which is very dramatic and engaging. For my older boys, it’s a fun and interactive game with familiar characters.
Earlier this week we had a little 5-year-old, let’s call her Emily, visit the ER for constipation. After 2 unsuccessful enemas, the doctors and nurses decided it would be best to just have her drink a medicine that would help do the job of the enema. Little Emily would drink a sip, cry about how bad it tasted, and then spend the time between sips bargaining with her mom for alternatives to avoid taking another sip. During this chaos, one of the ed techs called for me. I went in and introduced myself. Emily was shy and serious upon meeting me, but as soon as I brought out my bubble wand she was all smiles! Leaping up to catch the bubbles, giggling, and smiling from ear to ear. Once all the bubbles popped, she looked at me to blow more – I told her that in order for me to blow more, she needed to take a sip. Immediately she grabbed the cup from mom’s hand, took a sip, and I blew more bubbles. When the bubbles popped and the giggles stopped, she said she didn’t want anymore sips. I encouraged her to take another this and then I would blow a BIG BIG bubble. She smiled again and took another sip. I then blew a big big bubble. This went on for a few minutes while she drank the rest of her medicine. In the end, I congratulated her for being brave and drinking her medicine even though it didn’t taste good and since she was so brave, I gave her her own bubble wand to take home with her. The parent’s were relieved that their visit to the ER didn’t end with their little Emily crying all the way home.
Often times when people learn about what I do I get sympathetic responses and gasps with comments like “that is so sad”, “I could never do that”, “how are you able to emotionally handle such a sad job”. And while yes, sometimes situations can be VERY sad, there are always more good days that bad days! Just to prove that, I’ve decided to share some stories of the good days that make it all worth it!
Earlier this week, I was helping a 7 year old girl with an IV start (I work in the ER) which she’s had many times before so she immediately started crying and screaming when the doctor told her she was going to need one. I heard the commotion from the nurses station so I quickly grabbed my “bag of tricks” and went right into her room. We talked for a little bit while the nurse was setting up; about school, things she likes to do for fun, favorite foods, her family, and Halloween plans. Once I noticed that she had become more comfortable, I brought up the IV. We came up with a plan all based on her choices of how she would like things to happen…
- She and I would play on the iPad while they did it
- The iPad would block the view because she did not want to see
- The nurse would first look on her left arm rather than her right arm
- The nurse would count to three and poke AFTER three
- She would follow the 1 rule which is: do not move your arm.
The time came for the IV start and she did AMAZING! She did so great that mom started crying saying that in 7 years, this was the first time that she hasn’t had to be held down while she kicked and screamed. Not only was everyone in the room extremely proud of her, she was SO proud of herself! You could see it in her face how HAPPY she was that she didn’t need to have help to hold still. The mother thanked me for everything I had done but really, it was all her daughter! By giving her choices when she felt there weren’t any, she regained control over the situation and chose what she felt would be best for her.
While not very Child Life friendly, it is sometimes necessary to use a papoose with younger patients in the ER for procedures such as facial lacerations. Up until now, when prepping these little ones for their procedure I’ve told them about being wrapped up like a cocoon but it usually didn’t matter what I told them as soon as the papoose was brought into the room. So, I decided to make a doll-sized papoose so that I can show these little ones about their upcoming cocoon and they can practice putting a doll in & out of it and using the velcro straps! Having made the papoose out of a mailer and duct tape, it’s easy to wipe down in between patients. The Velcro is also an awesome detail to show them since the real Papoose has tons of it. The Papoose in our ER is blue so to make it as realistic as possible, I used blue duct tape. The metallic pink is from the mailer I used (its actually an ipsy mailer!) This was a nice touch because being pink & blue it can be used with boys and girls without getting annoyed looks from pre-schoolers for having brought the “wrong” color.
Papoose’s are never fun but are sometimes necessary to keep both the patient and the physician safe when doing delicate work with sharp tools. Hopefully my papoose prep can help ease the fear and anxiety little ones feel when needing to get into their own little cocoon. One more thing, before I’m shunned for having a Barbie that cannot be easily cleaned in the papoose, let me assure that she was just modeling the papoose for Adventuresinchildlife! I still need to find an appropriate toy to use with patients.