Taking medicine isn’t always easy – especially when it needs to be taken every day for an extended period of time. Non-compliance with taking medicine can also cause a great deal of stress for parents, especially when it’s the one thing keeping the patient from being discharged. One of my patients was having a hard time with this task so to make things a bit more tolerable, we decorated her medicine cups. This patient really wanted it to be grape flavor however we couldn’t give her that option for this particular medication. To try and fix her grape craving, we stuck with the grape theme for her medicine cups. The medicine is still unpleasant, but creating these cups & giving her choices made the whole process a little more tolerable. What are some ways you help patients be compliant with taking their meds?
Looking through my blog you can quickly notice that it mostly contains the good in the field of child life. Naturally, I am not a negative person thus I don’t highlight the bad – i.e., being called for support after 3 failed IV attempts, not having necessary resources to fulfill patient needs, getting a referral to “entertain” a patient. Though definitely annoying, there’s bad like this within any career in one way or another and it’s just something you learn how to handle. However, I’m going to take a deep breath and write this post about the ugly that I’ve experienced during my time as a CCLS – burnout.
Some of you may remember that up until February of this year, I was working independently in a pediatric emergency department at a children’s hospital within an adult hospital. I began working there 1 month after my internship and had to quickly learn the ropes of the ER flow, culture, and procedures/diagnosis, as well as educate the staff on my role, advocate for resources I needed to fulfill patient needs, and personally adjust my life to being a new young professional! That is a lot for anyone and much more so for someone working in an independent child life program. I did not complain or see this part of my adventure as daunting – I was excited and ready to take on this challenge! This is what I had studied for. This is what I had done internships for. This was my calling.
Day in and day out I juggled all of my new challenges and with sweat, tears, and so much love, I had successfully implemented my role as a CCLS amongst my ER team. I knew I was doing something right when the ER physicians would fight over who “got me” for their upcoming procedure;”You had her last time! My kid is terrified and I need her to help him be still for these sutures!” Music to any child life specialist’s ears, right?
The needs of any emergency department call for more staff to be on shift in the later hours of the day which is when most patient’s visit the emergency room. That being said, my shift was from 3pm – 11pm, Monday through Friday, and every other weekend (Saturday and Sunday shift, same hours). Looking back, this was the poison that caused my burnout – my schedule.
I began to feel desensitized towards my work and my interactions with patients and families began to seem routine. I felt as though I had reached a plateau in my clinical skills – I knew what I knew and what I didn’t know I didn’t have another CCLS to seek advice from so I didn’t feel I was growing. I’d spend entire shifts in and out of long procedures only to then be frowned upon by higher-ups because I had “only” seen x number of patients that day. As time went on I also felt I’d dwell on the little things (the bad) much more than I once would. I hated that I felt this way so early on in my career. I hated that I didn’t have another CCLS to speak to about professional and clinical issues I was facing. I hated that I didn’t have the support/understanding/resources from higher ups in my hospital. Most of all, I hated that I had to work the shift that I did and that it was poisoning my love for child life.
My black cloud (schedule issue) was especially hard for me because everyone else in the department – physicians, nurses, ED techs, respiratory therapists, patient transporters, medical scribes, even my two child life assistants – they all worked 12-hour shifts! I was the only employee in the emergency department that worked 40 hours a week, odd hours, weekends, with direct patient care. I collected data, research articles, and proposals of ways I could alter my schedule (working four 10-hour shifts versus the current five 8 hour shifts) and presented this to my manager. Unfortunately, I was told my proposal did not meet the needs of the department and so no changes could be made.
Now I know what you might be thinking (because I thought it too) – I signed up for this! Yes, I absolutely did and I was eager and ready to do so at the time. But after a year and a half of working 5 days a week in such a fast-paced and high-stress environment, it happened. I became burnt out. I did my research and unfortunately found lots of information on how to avoid burnout but very little on what to do when it actually happened. I was completely lost and disheartened – I knew I loved being a child life specialist. I loved the way I was able to help kids in crisis – I knew what to do, what to say, and I did it so well that physicians would wait their turn for me to help their patients.
Maybe I should’ve posted on the child life forum about my burnout, maybe I should’ve presented my research and data to the director of the ER, maybe I should’ve found a new job before I ever even got to that point. The thing about burnout (for me at least) is that I didn’t realize it was happening until I was already down the rabbit hole and by that point, I didn’t have the passion or drive to try and get myself out.
So how did I get myself out of burnout? I spent a LOT of time on the child life council’s web page searching the forum for data on emergency room child life hours, searching for the articles on burnout, and searching for the slightest indication that there was another CLS out there in the same predicament I was in. That’s when I found my cure – the child life council’s mentor/mentee program. I submitted my application and was accepted into this incredible program where I was partnered with a mentor – a veteran child life specialist!
The way that the program works is that you highlight different areas that you would like support with. Then from January – June, you and your mentor have a monthly phone call (or meet in person if able) to discuss your issues. You’re also able to attend a monthly webinar which focus on different issues many may be facing (i.e., communication skills, leadership skills, etc.). I cannot begin to explain what an incredible impact this program had not only on my career but in my personal life as well. I finally had the support I had been craving all along and with it, I found my passion, drive, and confidence to be proactive towards my career goals.
Fast forward to present day, I did end up leaving the emergency room as I felt it was very important for me to work as a part of a child life team. I am very thankful and still do feel blessed that I had the opportunity to spend two years in the ER. I wouldn’t trade it for the world! I truly learned so much about medicine, the importance of teamwork, and about myself. I’ll always miss my old department and especially all of the amazing people I worked alongside. Though I did hit a low while I was there, I have an abundance of positive memories of my first two years as a CCLS which outweigh the bad and the ugly in hindsight.
I find comfort in knowing that the child life council offers a program like this one for its members. For anyone in search of guidance, support, or wanting to further their professional skills – I highly recommend this program! For information on the mentor/mentee program, click the following link:http://www.childlife.org/professional-development/mentor-program
One of my younger patients was a little shy and nervous to be back in the hospital setting so we made a shield with tips to help him be brave. We had a lot of fun making this shield and of course, I learned so much more about him during the activity. I learned about his past hospital experiences, different ways he copes during procedures, and which procedures he has a difficult time with. He proudly hung up the shield on his bedroom wall and now had a visual reminder of his own tips on how to be brave.
His tips to himself were:
- Take medicine to help you feel better
- Look away
- If you get bored, call volunteers to come and play with you
- Count down
- If you don’t want to take your medicine, just take it fast and get it over with (this one was my personal favorite)
I recently had a patient that was unable to speak after a surgical procedure. She was developmentally appropriate and had no prior history of hospitalization so all of this was new and very frustrating for her. Her nurses came to me asking for help because she was having a very hard time communicating with them.
Here’s what I knew: she enjoyed playing on the iPad but did not have the strength to hold it up to type, she didn’t have the fine motor skills she once had to be able to use a marker/paper to write, and she had no family at his bedside to speak for her. I began to think of what she can do rather than what she can’t…. that’s when my creativity light bulb lit up! I created a communication chart for her.
One thing that she could do is move her arm/hand around and point. That was perfect! I found a chart with a couple of key phrases and emotions on it via google images by searching “communication chart”. I also created an empty template for her and her nurses to include more personalized phrases. I put both sheets into a sheet protector with a piece of cardboard in between so that it was sturdy and ta-dah!
My patient and the medical team working with her loved this communication chart and it truly helped her have a voice again.
I just found this months favorite find and I am so excited that I’ve come to share it right away! Ted Talk has a new video up all about child life titled “Fun in the Face of Crisis”. Please watch, share, and comment/like to raise awareness on our fascinating profession. You can see the video by clicking the following link: http://youtu.be/T_Kvefokrpw
In recent weeks I’ve been learning a lot about the health insurance portability and accountability act (HIPAA) and what that means for me as a blogger. What is HIPAA? HIPAA is a law that protects patient information and the security of health-care information. For example, if I were to post a selfie with, let’s say, Blue Ivy Carter in the hospital and captioned the photo “Omg, I had the fiercest patient today getting her tonsils removed!”; I’d be in LOTS of trouble and not only lose my job but have some legal issues as well. (For the record, I have never met Blue Ivy Carter nor do I know the status of her tonsils.) Anyways, what’s the big deal and how does this apply to blogging? Well, while that last example was obviously a HIPAA violation, you’d be surprised how vague the rules can seem.
With all of this talk about rules, I decided to compile a list of some of my own rules I follow in the blog world as a health care professional as well as some fun tips.
- Always keep HIPAA in mind when posting ANYTHING! Does it include a patient’s name? Can someone recognize the patient from your story (even if you changed their name in the story)? Can someone find a connection between the patient and what you’re posting (i.e.,room number/date/family heirloom in the background of the photo)? If you answered yes to any of those questions or if you’re 1% hesitant- DON’T POST IT!
- Don’t include the name of the hospital where you currently work in your post(s). Doing so could become a big marketing issue with your hospital.
- If posting on Instagram, don’t skip the hashtags. We are pioneering Child Life in the social media world and we definitely want to prove ourselves as more than just #toyladies. Placed a g-tube in an American Girl doll? #childlifespecialist #childlife #pediatrics #healthcarejobs #education #gtube – Hashtags help reach a variety of audiences think high school students, nursing students, med school students, nurses, doctors, psych majors, education majors, therapists, anyone! Use hashtags to raise awareness of Child Life and the importance it has in the lives of children.
- Bloggers: watermark your photos! Adventures in Child Life will be turning 4-years-old early next year which means I have uploaded lots of photos onto the internet. And boy, have those photos been saved, put through filters, downloaded, cut, resized, and uploaded by many other people. Luckily by watermarking my photos my name stays on them so if people want to share, the more the merrier! It’s a great way to get your blogs name out there. My favorite app to watermark is called “Over”.
When reading up on health care bloggers I found a great post that eased my HIPAA fears – follow this link to have a look for yourself: Don’t be afraid of HIPAA
What are some of the rules you follow, fellow health care bloggers?
As any child life specialist knows, finding a doll with plastic hair is like finding a hidden gem! Due to infection control precautions, cloth dolls or dolls with hair (barbie) should not be used in between patients because they are not able to be properly cleaned/sanitized. I was so excited when I found this Aladdin for 2 reasons:
1. his plastic hair making him easy to clean and maintain
2. Aladdin is a boy making him more relatable and engaging for my boy patient’s
I placed a PICC line on him for now but who knows, maybe in the future, he’ll need an IV or help me demonstrate an OR prep or a breathing treatment. I am so excited to have him by my side!
You can find your own Aladdin doll on Amazon !
I first learned about the child life profession when one of my child development professors my junior year of college very briefly mentioned it during one of his lectures. I jotted down “child life specialist” on the corner of my notebook and googled it when I got home. As soon as I looked it up, I knew this was it! I read every single word written on the entire child life council website but I still wanted more! I wanted to know what a typical day looked like for a CLS, I wanted to see pictures of their workspace, I wanted as much information as I could get to feel confident in my decision to pursue this career. I didn’t find what I was looking for that day so I started adventures in child life in hopes of providing others with what I was looking for at the start of my adventure.
It’s no secret that becoming a certified child life specialist is a lot of work! And how can you be sure that you’re ready to do all that it takes to become a child life specialist when you’ve never even seen what the job entails first hand? I get a lot of e-mails from people interested in the field asking me how they can be sure child life is for them before they dive in. I often asked myself this question too during the early stages of my adventure. I realized that child life was for me by truly understanding what the job entailed and see the magic first hand during my time volunteering, my practicum, my internship, and even during as a professional. This brings me to my favorite find of the month:
John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida will be hosting a seminar for those interested in learning more about the child life profession. This seminar will include a panel discussion with child life staff, information about education options & certification requirements, a hospital tour, and exposure to therapeutic activities. There are two seminars left this year – one will take place on July 27th and the other on November 16th. Space is limited to 25 participants per seminar so make sure and register online ASAP!
To see the flyer for the event, click here https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/getmedia/792ad66a-178e-43b5-9116-8ccb6f983e9c/DayInTheLife
Back in March, I mentioned I was working at one of my hospital’s week long camps for patients with special healthcare needs. Now that I have some more free time having finished with school, I’m ready to let you all in on the magic I witnessed during my week at camp.
Our camp is a (free) week-long spring break camp for children that need a little extra help breathing from the use of a ventilator and their families. This includes children with tracheostomies – needing a ventilator, C-PAP, Bi-PAP, or oxygen to help them breathe. The campers come from all over the world to spend their spring break doing fun activities such as going to the beach, going to the pool, going on a yacht around Biscayne bay, and having a dance party at the hard rock cafe!
This may sound nice to anyone, but this camp has a profound positive impact on the lives of its campers. Due to their medical condition(s), many of these campers are not able to do the activities they do at camp when they’re home. Our camp is fully staffed with volunteer nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, nurse practitioners, high school volunteers, nursing school volunteers, and a child life specialist (guess who!). It is thanks to so many medical professionals volunteering that these campers have the opportunity to bathe in the ocean or in a pool. For many of the campers, our camp is the only time of the year when they are submerged under water.
Our camp also gives the campers, their siblings, and their parents an opportunity to realize that other children go through similar medical experiences – just like them! With this tone of equality and normalization set within the first day of camp, it allows the campers and their families to relax, let their guard down, and just have fun!
Needless to say, I was blown away by the immensely positive impact this camp has on the lives of its campers, their families, and the dozens of volunteers that spend their spring break vacation dedicated to this organization.
To all child life students: this is a perfect example of how to stand out in the child life world. Not only would it look impressive on a resume, it will also help you with your personal professional development and medical knowledge. I’m not going to lie, I know that for my hospital’s camp there is a big commitment for those volunteering (in the end totaling 90+ hours). But, in my opinion, it’s worth it! There are camps like the one my hospital hosts all over the country and for various medical specialty populations. Had I known about this camp earlier on in my adventure in child life, I would have totally volunteered!
After two long years of what felt like infinite research articles, mastering the art of APA format, and lots of hard work, today I walked across the stage and graduated! I now officially have my masters degree from Nova Southeastern University! Ahh!! 😍