Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I'm Not Amazing

One of my favorite child life quotes says:

“I am deliberate in all my actions and words, because I use the language of children, and it has power. I’m a Child Life Specialist. When kids say they can’t, I tell them they can. I am a teacher, a helping hand, a support, an advocate, an active listener, a therapeutic touch, and a child development specialist. A guide and voice for siblings…All in the same day.”
Child Life Specialists use our education in child development, communication and play to provide support to children in their own language, figuring out what their needs are , from information, to companionship, play, legacy building or sibling support. 
We advocate, we communicate, we interpret. 

When I tell people what I do, I get one of 3 reactions:
1. Wow, you get to play with kids all day, how fun
2. Wow, you're amazing. I could never work with sick kids
3. What in the world is that??

1. Sure, yes, I do get to play with kids, but it isn't all day and my job is so much more than that. Children learn through play. Piaget says "play is the answer to how anything new comes about." Hospitalized children need to be involved in play which promotes normalization of a sometimes scary environment as well as way to express feelings. 

My job allows me to blow bubbles, play the Wii, prepare kids for surgery, help a 6 year old give an IV to a bear, facilitate tummy time, help a 3 year old be still as a statue for a CT scan and comfort a sobbing teenager, all before lunch time.

2. First of all, I'm not amazing, I'm just a normal girl who loves her job. It's okay if you can't imagine working with sick kids. I can't imagine working as a lawyer or banker.  I feel so privileged to be a part of each family's journey whether they are at the hospital for a routine surgery or end of life care. For me, being a Child Life Specialist feels more like a calling than a job. Each patient, each family, each brother or sister that I get to meet and work with is special. Sure, no one wants to walk into work and be paged for a death, but we know we can help that sibling with a million questions.We can read books like I Miss You, or When Dinosaurs Die, to help them gain an understanding of what happened. We can hold their hands as they say goodbye to their little brother. We aren't amazing, we are just helping a child in their time of need.

3. When I get this answer I refer back to that question that we were asked in almost every internship interview. "You get on an elevator with someone and they see your name tag. They ask, 'What is a Child Life Specialist?'"  My answer changes based on who is asking me, but it is generally the same. 
"My job is to normalize the hospital environment for children and their families, I prepare children for surgery and other procedures, I'm kind of like a teacher in the hospital, I help patients cope with the anxieties of being in the hospital, I PLAY, I work with the psychosocial needs of my patient and their families, I reduce anxiety in children before and after medical procedures, I facilitate medical play  ect. 

In the words of Albert Einstein, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”  I feel so incredibly lucky to witness firsthand the strength of these patients and their families facing illness, hospitalization and end of life. 

I know this post was kind of random; I was inspired by being called "amazing," "incredible" and a "baby whisperer" all in one day. It's hard to take compliments when you know it's not you that's amazing, but the patients and their families are the real life superheroes. 

What do you tell people you do? What's your favorite part of being a child life specialist?  

-Sydney

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