My Top 3 Challenge

A few weeks ago I decided to challenge myself to a gratitude project. I have read a lot about taking time each day to write three grateful thoughts can help with positive coping and resilience to stress. I must admit that it’s hard for me to remember to journal each day, so I decided to try documenting my gratitudes through photographs. Each day I took pictures and videos of things I was grateful for and posted them on social media as a way to keep me accountable. It was definitely an interesting experience. Sometimes I struggled with finding something, especially if I forgot to take a photo. But it was really need to go back through my photo albums and remember some really wonderful and yet often simple moments. After I was done I was trying to decide what I would do with the photos, so I decided to make them into a video. You can check it out here:

Have you ever tried a gratitude challenge? What did you find helpful? Post below to continue to conversation!

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Brainstorming A Dream Hospital

Sometimes therapeutic activities are big and complicated, but sometimes they can be quite simple. I wanted to share a very simple activity that we did as part of our Teddy Bear Clinic.

I love giving kids the chance to let their imaginations run wild and simple prompts are a great way to do this. For this activity I got a big piece of butcher paper and simply wrote “My DREAM Hospital…”

Then I put out some markers and let the kids have at it. This is the end result:

I would love to do this activity again with other prompts, just to see what people would write. I really like this because it can be part of a special activity or maybe even turned into something that guides us in making a decision for a new program or resource. The possibilities are endless! I think the hardest thing was encouraging people to write things down. Have you ever tried this activity? If so, what worked to increase participation? Share your experiences in the comments below!

I Spy… a Specimen Cup?

Hi everyone! Today I wanted to share with you a new medical art activity that can double as a coping tool! Have you ever since those I Spy cylinders that are full of little objects for you to find as you turn it? The ones you can buy at the store are cool of course, but you can totally make them yourselves. Here at the hospital m we got a little creative with the container!

Behold the specimen cup! More than just a container to hold urine! (Though if you are a CLS, you already knew this! I’ve used urine cups to store paint and silly putty, but this idea came when we were trying to come up with activities for our teddy bear clinic. Of course we also did bandaid bugs, but I’ve already posted about that tried and true activity.

Okay, so what do you need for this activity? Specimen cups, along with rice and any small items that would be fun to find in the rice. We used little foam stickers, google eyes, puff balls, feathers, and fuse beads.

The steps are simple. Full the cup up about halfway with rice. Next choose your items you want to “spy” and put those in the cup. Finally pour in a bit more rice and screw the lid on. I would recommend not filling the cup up completely to allow the items to easily shift when turning the cup. If you like you can hot glue the lid on if you are worried little hands will make a mess!

And there is your finished product! Have you ever done anything similar? I love that this can be used to help redirect focus during a procedure or just give kids something to for a little while. If you’ve done this before, what worked or didn’t work? Leave a comment below!

It’s March… Time to celebrate!

Happy Child Life Month to all my fellow child life specialists! If you didn’t know, March is Child Life Month, and here in Texas, the governor has made March 2019 officially Child Life Month! Last year our hospital got us some very nice t-shirts with the following picture:

Check out this awesome 'child+life+specialist+t-shirt' design on @TeePublic!

Cute, right? If you’re interested in getting a shirt of your own, you can find it here!

What are you doing for Child Life Month? Teddy Bear Clinic? Educational Sessions? Parties? Post your responses below!

Pain Control Is Real!

I wanted to share with you all a story recently published in the New York Times about how pain control is becoming more and more important in pediatric medicine. It wasn’t too long ago when holding children down and just “getting it done” was the common thought process for painful procedure. But more and more hospitals and medical teams are getting on the “no pain” band wagon. This article is another example of how much pain management has changed in even the past 5 years. I remember how just 4 years ago the common response to comfort positioning in our ED was “that’s not a good idea” or “I’m not comfortable with that.” But the last few times I’ve answered a page for an IV start, the medical staff doesn’t even blink an eye when I ask if the child can sit in the caregivers lap. Not only that, but I don’t have to prompt them to grab the numbing spray. Of course, we still have a long way to go. I am very impressed that at Children’s Minnesota uses numbing cream with every child. Numbing cream is generally speaking a better pain management option compared to numbing spray. I would love for our hospital to one day have that same standard.

I really liked how the article gave specific examples for pain management. What people don’t always realize is that there isn’t a perfect pain management solution that works for every person. Some people do well with the numbing cream, while others prefer the spray, and still others need some nitrous oxide. Infants from 0-6 months benefit the best from oral sucrose on a pacifier, but after 6 months of age, the oral sucrose really is not as effective anymore. Additionally, some individuals need to watch the procedure and distraction can actually increase their anxiety. So thrusting a light spinner or a tablet in front of their faces is not the most effective way to control their emotional responses. And it is a rare child who benefits from being held down. The only instances where I would be inclined to advocate for wrapping a child is if it’s an infant who calms with swaddling or a child with sensory needs that include strong pressure.

If you are a caregiver, I would second Dr. Chambers’ recommendation to speak up for appropriate pain control. I agree that a good starting point is to say “What can be done to manage my child’s pain?” If you are unsure of appropriate pain management choices, a child life specialist is a wonderful professional to consult. If there is not a child life specialist available at the medical establishment, reach out to the closest child life program or see if there is a child life specialist in community practice near by. It is true that the caregiver is the child’s first advocate for their pain control.

Do you have any success stories regarding a patient’s pain control? Post in the comments below! You can read the story in it’s entirety here!

Supporting Each Other…

I just read a wonderful blog post over on Case For Smiles’ blog “Coping Space” titled How To Support Your Relationship When Your Child Is Ill. It was a well written and concise discussion about ways caregivers can help support their significant other during the illness of their child. I agree that often we spend so much time focusing on the ill child, and then also the other children (if there are siblings), and the last thing we consider is supporting our significant other. Perhaps the thought is adults should be able to take care of their own needs. Or perhaps its difficult to split your own time and energy even further. But the fact remains that if you have a significant other, he or she deserves support as well.

I really liked that the writer Cindy Kerr gave some specific ideas and examples about how you can support your partner. My favorite is “Ask, then listen”. To often I see people just talk and not take the time to listen. Or if they do ask a question, they aren’t fully present to the answer, on purpose or by accident. Or, they listen to the answer and immediately start to try giving advice or suggestions.

It’s important that you invite your partner into a conversation that includes you asking questions and then just listening to the answer, without trying to fix or judge the person. Sometimes all that person needs is just to be heard, and believe it or not, this is very therapeutic. And if the person is looking for advice, she or he will tell you. If you’re not sure, ask her or him if you can give advice, and respect their answer. Even if the answer is no, by respecting it, that person might be more willing to request and listen to your advice later because you listened to them first.

You can read the whole blog post here. Have you ever tried active listening with someone? How did it go? Leave your story in the comments below!