Being in the hospital is hard. It can be especially hard on sick children and their families. Kids often are frightened about what’s going to happen to them, unable to fully understand their diagnoses, and in a strange, unfamiliar surroundings away from family and friends.
In addition, hospitalization can cause children to fall behind in school, feel isolated, become more dependent on their parents and miss social opportunities. These issues in turn can jeopardize a child’s physical, emotional and intellectual growth.
The Child Life Services program at Rush — like similar programs at other hospitals — helps children and families cope with the stress of health care experiences. March is Child Life Month, a time to celebrate child life professionals and educate people about their work.
Promoting development, providing reassurance
Child life specialists are experts in child development who work in the hospital setting. Through preparation, education, advocacy, emotional support, play and self-expression activities, their work encourages the optimal development of children facing a broad range of challenges, particularly those related to illness and hospitalization.
We were so lucky on the Rush pediatric unit to be able to receive a great donation last month from a patient. Jeffrey, age 10, with the help of his parents, friends and fourth-grade classmates, brought lots of presents for the children who spent the Christmas holiday in the hospital.
It is always amazing to see what kids can do, and doing the toy drive for hospitalized children was all Jeffrey’s idea. We are so thankful for all that Jeffrey, his family, friends and classmates have done for the children here to make their holiday brighter.
This past Sunday, May 23, was the annual Rush University Medical Center memorial service to remember the babies, children and teens who have passed away. I was able to help plan this event, along with nurses and chaplains, to help family members come, remember and celebrate the lives of their children.
The service had beautiful music that was sung and played on piano and violin, along with times of prayer, reverent readings, special time for the children who were present to participate and do an activity, and many opportunities for families to reflect and honor their child(ren).
It was so nice to see the families have an inviting space and time to talk about and show their love for their child. I felt privileged to be able to share an experience like this with those families.
Lisa M. Kappy BA, CCLS, CEIM, is a child life specialist with Rush University Medical Center. Rush’s Child Life Program focuses on the emotional and developmental well-being of hospitalized children and their families.
Lisa M. Kappy BA, CCLS, CEIM, is a Child Life specialist with Rush University Medical Center. Rush’s Child Life Program, which focuses on the emotional and developmental well-being of hospitalized children and their families, plans to share regular updates about its activities.
By Lisa M. Kappy
We started Child Life Month the first of March. We had a table in the cafeteria to help explain Child Life services that went really well. Also, to help promote some of the interventions we do as specialists, we are having dress-up days.
Friday, March 5, was superhero day to help talk about dramatic play. It was a really fun day for the kids to see their doctors, nurses and child life specialists dressed up as superhero characters. Thursday, March 11, was pajama day, which allowed us to talk about relaxation. When kids and teens are having stress and anxiety here in the hospital, we try to help provide a relaxing space and self. Pajama day was a nice and relaxed day that was topped off with a movie in the activity room.
Now we are getting ready for St. Patrick’s Day next Wednesday when we’ll have a corned beef sandwich lunch for the patients and families on pediatrics. Everyone is having a fun time celebrating Child Life Month, and we look forward to continuing the fun!