Play therapists in the hospital

Okay, so the wonderful woman that helped my kids in the hospital isn’t officially called a Play Therapist, she is actually called a Child Life Specialist.

But, that’s what she did with my kids – play!

Or, that’s what we thought she was doing.

Child Life Specialist would come into the triage room on the Pediatric Floor and blow bubbles, play music and generally try to distract the kids while they were getting their IV. It’s pretty scary for kids to be in a hospital. My kids were in the hospital 12 times when they were younger (thanks to asthma and pneumonia.) And every time was VERY scary – not just for the kids, it was scary for us too!

After the kids would get their IV, they would be moved to their own room. Child Life Specialist would come into my kid’s hospital room and visit with them. I thought she was just being nice and asking about their favorite color, animal, toy, etc. But then she would leave and come back bearing gifts. A new fleece blanket, stuffed animal, toys, art kits, etc. Woah!

She was trying to make their visit to the hospital a little bit better.

She would check on them often during their 3 day stay. Do they need any books? Would they like to color? How about a movie to watch? Do they want a gaming system rolled into their room?

Child Life Specialists are trained to:

“…….provide evidence-based, developmentally and psychologically appropriate interventions including therapeutic play, preparation for procedures, and education to reduce fear, anxiety, and pain.”

We got to be really good friends with the Child Life Specialist. She didn’t just take care of the kids, she would take care of us too. Chronic disease affects the whole family – not just the person trying to manage a disease.

She would let us know about activities on the Pediatric floor – Friday night pizza night, or other activities. She would let us know the hours of the cafeteria and snack bar, make sure we knew about valet parking and where to get the car keys after valet hours are over. She even found a room where I could use my breast pump and found a place to store my breast milk.

The last time my daughter was hospitalized for pneumonia and asthma, she was admitted on the day before her 7th birthday. I was in tears and called the parents to let them know my daughter was very sick and wasn’t going to be home for her birthday party – we were in the hospital.

Child Life Specialist said not to worry – we could hold my daughter’s party in a special room on the pediatric floor! My daughter had already asked for a puppy themed party, so Child Life Specialist created a party. She asked the hospital chef to make a puppy themed birthday cake, created Happy Birthday posters, found new plastic dog dishes and filled them with beads for the kids to make necklaces, and created other games.

All in less than a day.

Then she arranged with security to bring all of the kids up the back elevator to the special room. We tricked my daughter into walking down the hall “to get another chest x-ray”, and opened the door to a room full of her friends waiting with puppy themed party hats.

It’s a birthday I’ll never forget. It may have been just another day at work for the Child Life Specialist, but it’s been over 10 years, and I can still remember how she took a very sad day and made into an unforgettable day for my daughter.

Child Life Specialists are truly God’s gift to kids and parents in the hospital.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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