Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Revamping a Dormant Child Life Program: Month One

Hello,  Long time no blog...I've missed this blog, but let's be honest, we are one of the oldest child life blogs out there, there is so much new information, and social media has really taken over which is just incredible, I love the honest conversations and hard topics that are finally being addressed. I'm not promising anything, but I'm just going to say it feels good to be in this space again. 

Some quick updates on my life...

I got married(in a fully outdoors, covid safe wedding), moved to Texas, and am now working as an inpatient child life specialist after five wonderful years of being in the emergency department. I also was able to experience the Texas winter storm. We were without power for 3 days, but luckily we had water. 

Anyone else tired of living through historical events?

Wild two months right? 

Let's talk about my new job. When I was interviewing for this job it was marketed as starting over the child life program, and it would be a one person program for a few months to a year until they could get approval for an additional child life position. 

A little background on child life at this hospital: They have had a child life program for about 5 years, however it has been very transient with specialists leaving, having babies, coming back part time or per diem. The last year year and a half, there has only been one per diem child life specialist meaning the hospital could go weeks without child life and when the per diem specialist came in she had other tasks to do so seeing kids didn't end up being the priority.

I accepted the job and was excited for the new challenges. A month prior to starting, the hospital called me and said they were able to approve the additional position and there would be two of us starting at the same time. This was great news! Someone to bounce ideas off and really roll out the child life program all over the hospital. 

Stats of my new hospital: It is a community hospital with 16 pediatric beds, 10 PICU beds, a NICU, and a dedicated 8 bed PEDS Emergency Room. Child life also sees children of adult patients, pre-op and outpatient radiology. 

That sounds great right? Not too small, not too giant. Enter Covid. I'm sure most of you are aware that the pandemic has changed a lot of things in all hospitals, the biggest being our census. The census is low. Kids are wearing masks, some are not going to school, people are staying home, the kids just aren't getting as sick. This hospital is no exception, our census is crazy low. The other bit of bad news is they turned the beautiful freshly remodeled PEDS ED into a covid unit, so I haven't even been able to see it. 

Luckily, starting a child life program takes a lot of non-patient care work, so this has been a blessing in disguise for us. 

The first week of work, the per diem child life specialist took us on a tour of the hospital, showed us how things worked, helped us switch over email lists, and let us ask a million questions. We spent any extra time cleaning and organizing the office, storage closet and playroom. 

One of the first things I did, was set up a meeting with my manager, the per diem child life specialist and my co-worker to discuss short and long term goals of the program, past issues and covid rules. This was helpful in seeing what goals we all had and which ones were most important to my manager. 

During this meeting, my manager said she wanted us to branch into all areas of the hospital, to do this she was able to set up a meeting with each director of the different units for us. We had a meeting with the managers of NICU, Surgery, the Emergency Department and Radiology. These were invaluable meetings. We were able to show our faces, create virtual presentations, and printables for them to hand out or hang up. Instantly things started happening, pre-op wanted us every morning they had peds cases, NICU wanted us to present at their monthly staff meeting, and Radiology asked for help with a wiggly friend. Here is my disclaimer, this is not the norm. Last time I started a program there were many barriers, red tape and hoops to jump through. I was ready for that fight again, but it hasn't come, everyone is so welcoming, willing to learn and teach about child life, and all the units want us. 

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, you all know my quote that went viral, "You are a child life specialist no matter what you bring into a room with you, you are a child life specialist because of what you know and what you can do"... however I realized quickly that this program had little to no distraction tools. 

I emailed the head of IT to see if they had any extra iPads laying around, and after explaining what child life was, he ordered two brand new iPads and cases for us! I also sent my manager a list of my favorite tools (aka all of my Toy Tuesdays) and she provided us with amazon and target gift cards to order a few!  What a win! 

We have continued to do as much behind the scenes work as possible while seeing our small patient load. Many of our short term goals have already been hit. Progress has been made this month but there is still so much more to do. 

Questions? Feel free to DM me on insta or write them under the post! 

Talk to you soon!