The Common Good

Child Life Therapist easing worries for The Prince Charles Hospital’s littlest patients

Little Lachie accidentally tripped over and fell into a table, hitting his head and splitting open the skin near his right eye. The nearly two-year-old was bleeding and in pain, and when mum Lauren couldn’t get her son into the GP in the following few hours, she travelled to the Emergency Department at The Prince Charles Hospital.

“When he had the wound washed out initially, he was screaming so loudly. It was awful. I thought the whole hospital could hear him. No kid likes being kept still while they’re putting water all over their face.” Lauren said.

Following this, the ED doctor said Lachie needed stitches – an unpleasant experience for patients of all ages, but especially for kids who are in an unfamiliar environment and might not understand what’s happening. Fortunately, the hospital’s Child Life Therapist, Meenu, was there to distract Lachie and calm his nerves.

“She had a whole range of resources that she was pulling from. She gave him a car straight away, and it just happened to be the same type of toy car that we have at home. He recognised it, so he grabbed it and held it in his little hands. Meanwhile, she put up her iPad with some games showing him what happens when you press the screen, and then she got her bubble wand out, and there were bubbles everywhere.”

“It was also distracting for my husband and I. We were all singing ‘Wheels on the bus’ while she was showing the game on the iPad, and he’s got the toy, and it just meant that we weren’t 100% focused on what they were actually doing right in front of us,” Lauren said.


Child Life Therapist pilot program funded thanks to Curing Homesickness

The Child Life Therapist pilot program commenced at The Prince Charles Hospital in mid-2022. The launch of this role is thanks to the Curing Homesickness initiative, its major partner Coles and the members of the public who support it. 

In this role, Meenu uses play-based activities, positive distraction and controlled breathing techniques to help ease the worries of some of the hospital’s littlest patients and improve their ability to manage pain, thus reducing their need for sedation.

“The hospital environment is quite unfamiliar to children. When they come here, they don’t know what to expect or what’s going to happen, and so they have that fear of the unknown. Sometimes, if they’ve had a traumatic experience in the past, that raises their anxiety. If they are too anxious, their ability to process information goes away - so the first step is to reduce that stress and anxiety and then provide information appropriate for their developmental level,” Meenu said.

“So, if I have to prepare a 4-year-old for cannulation - where they need to receive fluids intravenously - or if I have to prepare a 13-year-old for the same procedure, I will approach it differently. I talk about what they may see, feel, and hear, what’s going to be their job, and provide options that give them a sense of control. Then we get better cooperation from them during procedures.”

Benefits of Child Life Therapist in Hospital and Beyond

For Little Lachie, this was his first-ever trip to the emergency department. His mum Lauren is incredibly grateful that Meenu was there to take Lachie’s mind off his pain and the treatment they administered.

“She (Meenu) said we did a great job because we were calm, and you know, they feed off our anxiety, so the fact that we were calm in the moment means that he was calmer,” Lauren recalled.

Thanks to the Child Life Therapists’ distraction and intervention, the experience was reasonably seamless for everyone involved – including the medical teams who helped to treat Lachie’s gash.

“It was great. We were in and out of the hospital in a couple of hours. We didn’t need to be at the hospital longer than we needed to be. The Child Life Therapist is amazing. It’s a fabulous service, and I think it should be expanded,” Lauren said.

The benefits of the invaluable hospital service have continued for Lachie and his family after their trip to the emergency department.

“At home, we had to change the bandage every few days or when it got wet. The first time we changed it, I had to hold him still the same way as the hospital staff, and I thought he might be upset, but he was very nonchalant about the whole thing. I definitely think if it had been a worse situation or more traumatising in hospital, the second we went back to change the bandage again, he would have resisted,” said Lauren.

$2 donation cards available at Coles until March 28

This year the Coles Curing Homesickness campaign will help to fund new equipment and patient care initiatives for The Prince Charles Hospital and Caboolture Hospital.

Along with the $2 donation card campaign running until March 28, fifty cents from each Mums Sause product sold year-round at Coles also goes to the cause.

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