CCLS on the other side of pain 

Comments 2 Standard

As a CCLS, I’m no stranger to pain. Chronic pain, acute pain, sudden pain – it’s all in a day’s work to help our little superheroes overcome their hospital visit. Lately, however, I have been on the other side of pain as a patient.

In August of 2016, I woke up one morning with dull neck pain. I hadn’t done anything particularly odd prior to this morning, so I just shrugged it off as “I must’ve slept weird”. Little did I know that my assumed diagnosis was wrong & that this wasn’t just going to go away after a few days.

I’ve tried everything to rid my neck pain; everything! Cortisone injections, 2 MRI’s, X-Rays, visited a spine specialist, acupuncture, acupuncture with electrotherapy, changed my pillows, changed my diet to be sugar-free, visited a holistic doctor, two rounds of physical therapy treatments, muscle relaxers, chiropractic adjustments, regular massages, regular yoga, regularly applying peppermint oil on my neck – everything. All of this and yet the neck pain stays with me every minute of every day. Some days are better than others, but I can’t remember the last time I was a zero on a pain scale.

The most frustrating part of what I like to call my “neck pain saga”, has been the lack of support I’ve felt from doctors; many of which writing off my neck pain as just stress related. I know that I’m not stressed, especially not enough to have chronic neck pain! But no matter how much I’ve told my doctor’s this, they insisted it was, just stress related. One doctor even told me to ” suck it up, everyone lives with pain and this is just part of getting older”. Needless to say, this entire journey with chronic pain has been draining, expensive, and in some way a learning experience.

This last year of pain has taught me a great amount and I truly feel that it’s made me a better CCLS. Here are some tips & tricks I’ve learned along the way:

  • The freezy spray really works! When getting my Toradol/lidocaine injections into my neck the freezy spray really takes the sting out of the initial needle poke. However, the actual liquid medication going into the muscle is clearly felt.
  • Deep breathing exercises have saved me. While getting injections, waiting for diagnostic results, having my neck manipulated, laying in an MRI, and even sitting in traffic feeling the burning neck pain; I wouldn’t have been able to get through it if I didn’t know how to breathe. Click here for more on deep breathing  
  • There are lots of apps that help you track your pain. My favorite has been Symple. Tracking my pain has helped me find patterns in my pain and really be mindful when assessing how I’m feeling. This can definitely be a helpful tool for teens when transitioning to adult care from pediatrics.
  • Sometimes all I needed was someone to validate my pain – not tell me how to fix it. Having my pain be dismissed so frequently by doctors made me question how real my pain even was. Which is, of course, ridiculous because I’m the only person who can feel my pain and believe me: it’s real and always present. Now when my patients tell me that they are in pain I always, first and foremost, validate their pain.
  • It is incredibly frustrating to be told that I am in pain because of something I have control over (i.e., “you have neck pain because you eat too much sugar”, “you have too much stress; you need to relax”, “your posture isn’t perfect”, “you stare at your phone too much”, “the pillow you use is too fluffy”, “the pillow you use is too flat”, “you’re seeing a chiropractor? you should see a spine specialist”, “you’re seeing a neurologist? you should go do acupuncture”, etc). Whenever addressing someone’s pain, be mindful of how you’re wording your kind advice/suggestions. I know it’s coming from a good place & I certainly appreciate the concern. However, the last thing a person in pain wants is to be kicked while they’re down by being told they’re doing it all wrong.
  • Talking about my pain isn’t always comforting. Being asked on a daily basis by friends and family how my neck feels brought on more feelings of guilt and disappointment, rather than comfort in knowing others care about my health. Especially with chronic pain, whenever I’m asked how my neck is doing I know the other person wants to hear “I feel great! the pain is gone! Thank you for asking” but to say that would be a lie. Instead, I say the truth, that I am still in pain, which then leads to feelings of guilt on my part and disappointment on their part. Trust me, from personal experience and having witnessed my patients this last year, when the pain does get better the patient wants to tell the world!

As for my pain, luckily, by some random movie-like coincidences, I stumbled into a new clinic where I finally feel like I’m being taken care of. I’ve even been given an actual diagnosis; cervical kyphosis – not just stress related! I am still undergoing treatment at this clinic but I am very hopeful that this is where my neck pain will end.

Have you ever experienced the patient side of pain/healthcare? What are some things you were able to apply to your work with children afterward?

Advertisements

Teacher Toolbox

Leave a comment Standard


I am so excited to finally have my teacher tool box up and running! I’ve always been very organized and now I’m able to have all of my expired/left over medical supplies nicely sorted. You can find your own teacher tool box on Amazon.com – click here. They sell lots of different sizes so make sure to look around for one that best meets your needs. As for the labels, I found mine on tacherspayteachers.com – shout out to Classroom Ispirations! You can click here  or you can simply search “teacher toolbox labels” on teacherspayteachers.com and find other themes. Many of them are free like the one I used!

Yoga + Child Life – Part I

Comment 1 Standard

You may remember at the end of last year I enrolled in the Rainbow Kids Yoga teacher training ( see post here ).  Let me start off by saying I am by no means an expert Yogi! I enrolled in this course not to deepen my practice or ditch child life to become a yoga teacher but rather to use the theory of yoga in my day to day as a CCLS. Fast forward 7 months after the Rainbow Kids Yoga training: it’s worth it!

I use the skills I learned with Rainbow Kids Yoga almost on a daily basis with my patients. So, what did I learn and how am I applying it to child life? For starters, it’s important to realize that yoga is more than just poses and flexibility. In fact, I don’t use yoga poses at all with my patients. What I do use is deep breathing exercises and guided imagery practices.

I have so much information and resources to share on this topic that I’ve decided to break up this post into 2 parts so stay tuned for more!

As a lover of free resources, I have set up a google drive where I’ve uploaded tons of freebies from teacherspayteachers.com on this subject. Click the link below to view:

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B7up2fwr6___OXJ4MUlJRnNoNjg?usp=sharing

Part I:

Deep Breathing

download.jpg

Any wise 7-year-old will be quick to tell you that breathing is important – we have to do it to stay alive! And while this is quite true, our breath also has a big impact on our mind and how we cope with experiences.  image-4722.jpgSee this picture example of how our breath changes as we become stressed. This is where yoga comes into action! By teaching children different breathing exercises during times of stress/anxiety, they will be able to slow their breathing thus helping them cope, remain calm, and feel a sense of control.

There are TONS of kids breathing exercises you can find with a quick google search. For example one of my favorites is Snake Breath – take a big breath in and as you exhale make a “Sssss” sound as long as you can. Another favorite of mine is Lion Breath – take a big breath in and as you exhale stick out your tongue and make sure to make your meanest lion roar face. Find inspiration online or make up your own! I made up Bubble Breath – inhale and pretend you’re blowing one really really big bubble as you exhale // inhale and pretend you’re blowing out millions of really little bubbles as you exhale. For some little ones the concept of “inhale” and “exhale” may not be appropriate so change up your terminology to something like “smell the flowers, blow the leaves” or “smell the birthday cake, blow out the candles”.

In an effort provide a visual for the patients and to help me remember so many different breathing techniques, I created a laminated breathing cards with different clip art depicting the type of breath.  Shout out to Gretchen Blackmer for the inspiration for these breathing cards http://www.everydaywarrioryoga.com/ 

715232d3ee5601d314728edc1002f59b--coping-skills-pediatrics.jpg

Another great tool to use to show patients the effects of breath is to use a  Hoberman Sphere.This is one of my favorite resources to help kids really understand how lungs open and close with each breath. Plus it’s an overall really cool toy and instant rapport builder in my opinion. I’ll guide my patients in doing the different breathing exercises with the Hoberman sphere so they can see the full effect.

Another great tool I’ve used to support my breathing exercises is the book “Breathe, Chill: A Handy Book of Games and Techniques Introduced Breathing, Meditation, and Relaxation to Kids and Teens” by Lisa Roberts. This book breaks down various types of breath and how/when/why to use them. After I purchased this book I read the testimonials on the back and saw one of them was written by a CCLS! Just goes to show how beneficial yoga practice can be in the field of Child Life. You can find this book here on Amazon. 51NfLPIAGjL._SX346_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

I’ve had many kiddos that really enjoy doing these deep breathing practices before/during/after procedures. I even had a patient choose my breathing cards over my iPad for distraction during her first IV! Not only do these skills help them cope with the present situation, but they walk away with a new coping technique in their pocket for future use & that’s what child life is all about!

 

 

Fun for EVERYONE

Comments 2 Standard

I believe it’s important for every CCLS working in the hospital environment be knowledgeable on how to meet the unique needs of kids with developmental disabilities and their families. Often times, developmental disabilities are associated with chronic health conditions resulting in some sort of medical intervention(s) during their lifetime. That being said, these kiddo’s are often a top priority for me when I check my census each morning. So, how do I help these patients? Lots of ways!

  1. Play! Here’s a tactile stimulation activity I set up for one of my patients. Even though some kids are non-verbal, they still have likes and dislikes even when it comes to play. Ask mom/dad/caregiver for any preferences the patient may have. If it’s just you and the patient, figure it out! Talk to them,  laugh with them, play with them, see how they react when you help them engage in the different activities. The patient I took this activity to LOVED the feathers but she absolutely did NOT like the slime – haha!  IMG_6052.JPG
  2. Volunteers! Just like their typically developing peers, kids with special needs get bored too! Especially spending long hours in the hospital setting away from their routines. Don’t be afraid to have your volunteers visit these patients. Introduce your volunteer to the patient and model some appropriate play opportunities. Often times when I have patients that are admitted without family members at the bedside, I create an “about me” board as if written by the patient along with toys/activities I know the patient will enjoy. The “about me” boards are bright, handwritten, and easy to spot by any volunteer or staff that goes into the patient’s room. I write something along the lines of:
    • Hello Friend! My name is ______ and I am ____-years-old. Thank you for stopping by my room to play with me! Some of my favorite things to do are: listen to friends read to me, listen to the radio, squeeze play-doh in my hand, hold toys in my hand, and just have fun. There is a basket by the window where you will find some of my favorite toys and activities. If I need anything while we’re hanging out, my nurse’s phone number is on my whiteboard. I can’t wait to start having fun!Love, _________
      and Diane, my child life specialist (extension #)
  3. Resources! I’ve found many items that have proven to be very helpful for pediatric patients with special needs. Whether for support/distraction during a procedure, for relaxation and coping, or for recreational play, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorites. Click: http://a.co/2wbxj0E   What are some of your favorite resources to offer this population?

There are tons and tons and TONS of resources out there on working with kids with developmental disabilities in the hospital. Do your research!

Still feeling a little nervous about helping patients with special needs? There’s no need to be nervous! They are just like their typically developing peers – yes… really, they are! One of my favorite pages on Facebook will prove it to you. Click here:  https://www.facebook.com/specialbooksbyspecialkids/

 

Teddy Bear Clinic 

Leave a comment Standard

Another fun event my team and I hosted in honor of child life month was a teddy bear clinic. This event is usually a great hit with the patients and families.

We started off by giving each “doctor” their patients chart. Here we included some information on the “top 10 reasons to call your child life specialist” as well as information on the different stations at the event.

 

img_4853-1

These are all of our “bear-y” sick patients. We contacted our marketing department and they had many bears with our hospital’s logo that they were happy to donate to us!

img_4854-1This first station is where our “doctors” would gown up and get ready to treat their patients. This was a very popular station and it was so adorable to see kids proudly walking around looking like doctors.

 

img_4851-1

The next station was triage followed by the IV station. We had a CCLS at each of these stations helping guide the “doctors” as they cared for their patient. Here is where we were able to sneak in our education & address misconceptions.

 

img_4855
Here’s a closer look at our triage station and IV station.

img_4852-1

Finally, the patients were able to do an x-ray by dipping our demo bear into white paint and smudging it on black paper. This was a very fun and creative way to incorporate medical art into our teddy war clinic.

Some other activities we had at the clinic were a photo booth station with props and a table with markers, crayons, and construction paper for the “doctors” to write a get well soon card to a patient in the hospital. We also included band-aids and gauze at this station to continue to promote medical art. Needless to say our clinic was a big success and all of our teddy bears were cured. Thanks, doctors!

CLC2017

Comments 2 Standard

Processed with VSCO with kk1 preset

It’s almost time again for the national Child Life Conference and this year it’s in Las Vegas, Nevada! To see the (super exciting) program for conference click here. I still haven’t decided if I’m going to be attending this year’s conference, but if I don’t, the Association of Child Life Professionals has a wonderful backup plan for those that can’t make it all the way to Vegas this May. After you register for the conference, for $50 more you can purchase the “All Access Pass”. With this pass, you are able to watch all of the sessions that were at the conference and receive professional development units (PDU’s) for them! I purchased the “All Access Pass” for last year’s conference (which I was able to attend in person) and I HIGHLY recommend it. You have 1 year before the sessions expire and you can watch them all on your own time at your own speed. Now if we can just get them to mail us our complimentary tote bags and SWAG from all of the exhibitors we’ll be all set!

Whether you’re planning on attending or not, here are some conference tips:

  • Students: If you’re financially able to go to conference, GO!!!! I cannot stress this enough. I truly wish someone had told me when I was a student to attend one of these conferences. They’re incredible and you’ll leave ready to take on the child life world! Plus, not only is it a great place to network, and learn, it’s also something you can add to your resume that will prove to potential practicum/internship coordinators that you are truly interested in the field of child life.
  • Looking for a new job? Go to the conference! As I mentioned above this is a great place to network and there are even boards where you can post up your resume for potential interviews!
  • For those who cannot attend this year, try and do the all access pass! This is the option I’m leaning towards and yes, it’s not as fun as actually going to the conference, but the sessions this year really are phenomenal. Look at the program and highlight the sessions you’d be interested in – if you highlighted your entire program in yellow like I did, get the all access pass!
  • For those of you that are going to the conference, HAVE FUN! I was in Las Vegas last year for vacation – in fact, that is where the photo above came from! I highly recommend the Beatles love cirque du Soleil show – I laughed, cried, and fell in love again with the Beatles – 100% worth it. I also highly recommend checking out red rock canyon, which is about an hour outside of Vegas. They have tours and breathtaking views – do your research and get your desert fix.
  • Hurry! Prices for the conference will rise on April 1st, 2017! Register ASAP! 

 

Grape medicine cups 

Comments 2 Standard


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?

Helping non-verbal patients have a voice

Leave a comment Standard

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.

 

Favorite find of the month

Comment 1 Standard

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 !

Cystic fibrosis teaching

Leave a comment Standard


Recently I had a school-aged boy diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF) admitted to my unit for a “tune up”. He told me he was in the hospital because he had CF and when I asked him what CF was he said: “I don’t know what it is but I know that I have it…”. I asked him if he wanted to learn a little about what CF was and he agreed! Right away I went to grab a Huxi book, some crayons, and coincidentally I found a panda stuffed animal in our prize closet. We read through the book and talked a lot about mucus and the parts that it effects in a person’s (or panda’s) body with CF.

After we talked about mucus, then things got really fun… we made slime (aka, mucus)! There’s nothing school-aged boys love more than making gross, icky, gooey, slimy mucus. I wanted to make slime with him so that he could have a concrete example of how sticky and gooey mucus can be. While we were squishing the slime around in our hands he began to ask questions like “how do we get rid of mucus?”. I answered his question by asking him about things he does at home – breathing treatments, enzymes, wearing his vest, etc. We also talked about other ways he can help his body get rid of mucus like eating healthy and being active.

I am so glad I had the opportunity to teach my little patient about CF & that we both had so much fun!