Increasing Compliance

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There are many times that I am asked to help a patient to increase compliance with their plan of care. This can be anything from helping a patient take their medicine to helping them walk around the unit post-op to simply helping them breathe after a breathing treatment. These are the times that creativity really kicks in and I need to have more than one trick up my sleeve. Here are some of the tools I use to help increase compliance:


  • Incentive charts – there are tons you can find online like this one that I found on Amazon. Lots of times a sticker chart alone is enough to help a patient increase compliance with their plan of care. Never underestimate the power of stickers, people!71KFeBlCzQL._SL1000_
  • Increase ambulation – this one is always tricky and requires a lot of back up plans. Depending on the age, there are various floor toys that require kids to walk, stand, or move around to engage in play. Again this will all depend on the specific patient and his/her likes, interests, and pain level when needing to walk. Think outside of the box when selecting toys; for example, I once had a teen soccer player who was reluctant to walk after his surgery. I brought out a soccer ball during one of his laps aro614sLwN22hL._SX355_und the unit and he lit up with excitement to be able to lightly kick the ball down the hallway. Another example was a 5-year-old patient that didn’t want to walk after having her appendix removed. I was called in to help after the nurse had tried for over 30 minutes to convince her to walk. As soon as I came into the room the patient exclaimed: “I’M NOT GOING TO WALK!” I validated her feelings and told her I wasn’t going to make her walk. However, I noticed her Rapunzel doll looked a little hungry so I asked the patient if she wanted me to bring in a play kitchen so she could make her some food. The patient eagerly accepted and spent over an hour walking, sitting, standing, and moving around her room as she played preparing food for her doll.
  • Increase PO intake – when it comes to food one must always be empathetic. I would never want to ruin a child’s relationship with food so I always use caution with these interventions. Depending on the age, fun plates/cups/utensils of their favorite characters will do the trick. Other times an incentive chart will help. I’v71PGEs0JBGL._SY355_e had a lot of success with simply changing the subject; stop talking about food and do something else. Leave the food around, engage in play, and the eating will often start organically. I mean, who doesn’t like to munch on some waffles while setting up Lego’s. It’s definitely a syrupy mess but hey, he ate! Providing play food and letting them freely play and feed their toys can also be helpful.
  • Incentive spirometer – many patients are required to use an incentive spirometer after certain breathing treatments. The ones at my hospital have fun designs on them that make them look like a game. However, I get consults to help with these patients all the time! Kids hate using them! So, leave it to me with my bag of tricks to get kids to breathe. Check out my previous post on yoga and deep breathing as this is always my first go to. I also like to give kids choices so I have kazoo’s, bubbles, string pipe toy, and other fun 61n+WVdutdL._SY355_breathing toys to get them to take those deep breaths. Even toddlers get in on the breathing fun by blowing out the candles on my birthday cake. There’s nothing toddlers love more than songs, repetition, and a cause and effect toy!





For a full list of resources to increase compliance, check out my Amazon list here:

Increasing Compliance


Child Life Market

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All week long I’ve shared with you some of my favorite resources I use to help my patients cope with hospitalization. Let’s end another week with a peek into my child life market, Coping + Normalization Edition!


Coping Tools

Favorite Find

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In January 2014, The Confetti Foundation started supplying birthday party kits to children who spend their birthdays in the hospital. Through the party kits, children of all ages are celebrated and honored on their special day.

One of my favorite duties as a CCLS is helping patients celebrate important milestones, like birthdays! I love celebrating birthdays and the Confetti Foundation makes it so much easier to transform any patient room into a party! Each box they send out is categorized by theme/gender or labeled “for everyone”. Inside you’ll find streamers and other things to decorate the patient’s room, cups, utensils, plates, and lots of other fun goodies to help celebrate. For more information on the confetti foundation click here:



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Today at 10am a group of employees and our kiddos from daycare participated in #nationalwalkout day with 17 minutes of silence and a walk around the hospital. The tragedy in Parkland hits close to home as #marjorystonemandouglass is only about a 45 minute drive from us here in Miami. As child life specialists, our role is to advocate for children inside & outside of the hospital, & advocate for their safety. Politics aside, it’s all about the kids. Keep them safe! #MSDstrong #childlife #childifespecialist #childandfamilyadvocate #itsallaboutthekids #adventuresinchildlife

Favorite Find

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tanners totes

Tanners Totes is dedicated to providing cheer to preteen and teen patients undergoing long-term hospital treatments and stays. A Tanner’s Tote is unique in that it presents the patient with a wide variety of new, non-food, items to bring some greatly needed distractions and joy.

This is another organization that I hold near and dear to my heart. The resources they provide are perfect for preteens/teens that are experiencing long hospital stays. We all know how hard it is to have games/toys/activities/resources for teens so these big tote bags are a Godsend! They include various items such as a dry erase board, uno, water bottle, sketch book, markers, colored pencils, etc. My favorite item in the bag has to be the Staples “Easy Button”. My kiddo’s always get a kick out of that one and it truly makes a positive impact during their recovery. These totes are TOTES amazing!

For more on Tanners Totes, visit

For information on getting Tanners Totes to your hospital, visit

Favorite Find

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Being that March is Child Life Month (YAY!) I am going to share with you 3 of my favorite finds throughout the week. Today is all about Pabs Packs!

“PAB” is for Pia and Abbie; that’s us. We are lifelong friends. One of the things we share is knowing what it’s like to be in the hospital feeling lousy and scared. Abbie was diagnosed at age 13 in 2013 with Type 1 diabetes. Pia received her diagnosis in 2014 at the age of 14: Stage 2A Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Thanks to the wonderful care we received at Children’s Hospitals Pia is cancer free and Abbie has her diabetes under control. With a lot of help from our families, we started PAB’S PACKS in 2014 because we wanted to help kids who are going through long days in the hospital.

I split my days between NICU and our surgery/orthopedics unit. The surgery/orthopedic unit is where I meet patients that are about to go into surgery and are in major need of some comfort. Pabs Packs are the perfect compliment to my teachings/preps prior to surgery because they include everything the patient’s need at that time.

  • A soft blanket
  • A stress ball
  • Chapstick and lotion
  • A very cute and cuddly penguin (which I’ve been able to place IV’s on during medical play to match the patient)
  • A journal with a pen (which I use to encourage patients to write any questions they may have or journal about their experience)
  • & a flyer with the inspiring story of Pia and Abbie and their journey with hospitalization

My teens absolutely love their Pabs Packs inside and out (the backpacks themselves are very chic, modern, and unisex)! I’ve seen time and time again what a tremendous positive impact they have on not just the patients, but the family as well.

Child Life Market

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All week long I’ve shared with you my NICU tips and tricks. Today I want to share my NICU shopping lists with you!

Must-Have Items for NICU Siblings

Must-Have Items for Bereavements

Must-Have Items for NICU

What are your NICU must-have items?

NICU Graduates

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It’s a great day in NICU whenever we have a NICU graduate leaving our hospital! To commemorate this major milestone, I teamed up with volunteers to knit graduation caps. I then gave the graduation caps to our discharge nurse to give out for patients that have been admitted to our NICU for 30 days or more. These graduation caps have been a huge hit and I’ve heard parents say that it’s the best part of their whole hospital experience. See our beautiful graduation caps below modeled by my legacy preemie doll!


NICU Bereavements

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While it is an honor to be able to be a part of this difficult time in a family’s life, bereavements are always difficult in a pediatric setting. They’re of course difficult for the grieving family, they’re difficult for the staff, and they’re difficult for me. No matter what anyone says/does, this is the worst day in this family’s life. Our role as child life specialists is to provide support to the grieving family. This may be by simply sitting with the patient’s mother and listening to her vent, this may be by helping the family create a memory box for the patient, or even just providing tissues and tea. Every bereavement is different as are the needs of each family. During my time in NICU I have found some incredible resources that I’ve been able to offer grieving families.

Angel Gowns  NICU Helping Hands’ Angel Gown® Program began in 2013 because we recognized there was an overwhelming need for better support for families who lost a baby. Our Angel Gown® Program provides comfort for bereaved families through the gift of a beautiful custom-made gown for final photos and for burial services.

I was touched when I received my shipment of Angel Gowns by seeing how much detail was put into the gowns. They’re made from donated wedding dresses and come in a wide range of sizes. The smallest being an “Angel Wrap” for those angels that are too small to clothe, up to extra-large size for infants. The gowns come in individual boxes with a flyer from NICU Helping Hands of various support services they offer grieving families. The gowns are also open in the back with the option to tie, much like a hospital gown.


Angel Gown for a girl


Angel Gown for a boy

Angel Wrap for a girl

Teeny Tears Teeny Tears is a service organization that provides tiny flannel diapers at no charge to hospitals and bereavement support organizations for families that have suffered the loss of a preemie or micropreemie child through stillbirth or NICU loss. 

Teeny Tears are another great resource which offer cloth diapers/hats and blanket for the loss of preemies/micropreemies. What I love most about Teeny Tears is that each bundle comes with two diapers and two hats; one for the baby to keep and one for the family to keep.

I have also created an Amazon list of other items I’ve used for bereavements. Click here:

NICU Siblings

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You may remember that back in June I began providing coverage in NICU. While I am in no way a child life NICU expert, I wanted to share some tips and tricks in working with this unique population and their families. Luckily, my NICU already had a sibling program set in place when I arrived. Siblings ages 3-12 are able to visit their new baby brother/sister for 1 hour each day after completing the child life sibling program. I, of course, lead the sibling program where I go over why their baby is in the hospital, introduce medical play opportunities along with therapeutic activities, and orient them to the hospital. I then accompany the siblings to their baby’s room and help foster that first connection between the siblings. In doing these sibling visits I’ve witnessed some of the most tender, precious moments and I’m so thankful that I’m able to be a part of it.

Here are some of the things I use during my sibling visits

IMG_0621.PNG1. The Big Brother & Big Sister Guide to NICU; this is a workbook I made that goes over everything we need to cover during our sibling program. It includes pictures of things the siblings will see, a dictionary for things they may hear, the rules they must follow while in the NICU, and some therapeutics.

2. Big Sister/Big Brother Award; these I got for free on I laminated them and then fill in the sibling and the baby’s name with sharpie; very official!

3. Baggie filled with medical play materials to take home.

4. Crayons

5. I’m a big brother/ I’m a big sister stickers

6. “Your New Baby is Here!” coloring book. I found this coloring book on Not only are they cute, printable, and developmentally appropriate but you can download them in 6 different languages!

7. (not pictured) gold medal to celebrate sibling for being a great big brother/sister.

For all of the resources mentioned above:

Click here for PDF printables:

Click here for Must Have items for NICU Siblings: