Helping non-verbal patients have a voice

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.

Child life month – first timer

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As you all may know, this is my first year celebrating Child Life Month as a Child Life Specialist! Very exciting!! However, I am the only CLS in my department so it’s really up to me how I decide to celebrate Child Life month (no pressure, right?!). Being that I started working in January, I am still too shy to go all out and make shirts, organize a flash mob, create games with prizes, call the news stations, etc. So, here’s what I’ve done!

– A banner (Mara Mi tablecloth target- on sale!) which I hung above a main intersection in our unit. *Warning* the paint bleeds through the tablecloth & paper placed between floor & tablecloth will stick to the tablecloth when dry. #RookieMistake
– We have a bulletin board in our staff bathroom which needed a little tlc so I (with the help of some fabulous nurses that are very excited for Child Life month) fixed up the bulletin board & added a fun little Child Life info sheet which I’ll change weekly for the month of March. The info sheet includes: child life tip, did you know…?, get to know your child life specialist (2 truths & 1 lie about me), & a favorite child life quote.
– I was also able to gain custody (for this month at least) of a bulletin board in a high-traffic area in our unit! I dressed it up with “Lucky to have Child Life” (idea inspired by a post on the Child Life Council blog) & a “who, what, when, where, & why” about child life (info from the Child Life Council as well).
– I wanted to do a little more so I met with my boss to see what she could help me with to celebrate Child Life month & I was able to write a post for the monthly newsletter and have food ordered for the staff on a date of my choice.

Not too shabby for a first timer, if I do say so myself! The staff in my ER is great and really supporting my role as a CLS. From doctors and nurses giving me excellent referrals, to staff members asking if they can help me bag crayons or clean toys, to even brainstorming child life month activities! I may be the only cls in my department but I’m definitely not alone :).

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

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Below are some of my favorite websites & organization that help support and raise awareness for those affected by childhood cancer:

  • HeadbandsofHope.org – for every headband purchased, one is given to a girl with cancer and $1 is donated to the St.Baldricks foundation to help fund pediatric cancer research. In honor of Childhood cancer awareness month, the organization is doubling up and giving away two headbands for every one that is purchased & donating $2 to the St.Baldrick’s foundation. Use promo code “HopeDiane” at checkout for a discount.
  • Alexslemonade.org – this is an amazing foundation that started when 4-year-old Alex said she wanted to start a lemonade stand. They have tons of information on their website about ways you can get involved and raise awareness.
  • Acco.org – the American Childhood Cancer Organization website also has a lot of information on was that you’re able to help raise awareness & advocate for children affected by cancer.