On July 13th, I finished my 640 hour-child life internship! This was a bitter sweet moment. While I was ready to head back northwest and spend time with my family; it was bitter sweet, because I had made so many friendships, changed families lives, helped little ones through painful procedures and made many lasting memories.
During my internship, I learned so much. From distracting and educating a five-year-old who was getting stiches, a one year old who needed surgery to helping children walk again after an appendectomy. During an internship one learns that no two children are the same and so therefore a distraction may not work and that is okay. Nothing is always 100% going to.
I also learned that you also never know the impact that you make on the patients or their families or even the staff that I worked with. As I prepared to leave the hospital one final time the nurses that I got to know very well (inpatient peds, CED and ENDO) told me that they wished I could stay and that I had really been a great help to them and that whatever hospital hired me was going to be very lucky.
On more than one occasion, I was told by families that their child’s hospital experience was better, because I had taken it upon myself to make sure that the child did have a better experience. One patient, a 16-year-old’s parent told me that, because of my interaction, explanation of the IV and surgery (this was ENDO) and offering the VR goggles as a distraction; the patient was able to sit and have the nurses do the IV. He sat there and didn’t even flinch. All he said was Ow and continued to play the game. The mom was so amazed and gave me a high five and told me that he was very fearful of needles. While the nurses looked at me with big smiles. One of which told me later that I had done an amazing job with the patients today and that they couldn’t have done it without me.
Another experience that stood out to me was my last day at the hospital. A 2-year-old female came into the CED with her mom and dad. The nurse needed to start an IV and take blood. Child life was called in to educate and distract the child. This was done by showing the patient the little straw that was going to give her body a drink and make her feel better. While I finished up explaining it on her new teddy bear CL had given her, I began blowing bubbles as distraction. The patient gradually began popping the bubbles. However, that was until she saw the items for the IV. In seeing them, she began crying. Encouraging the parents to talk to their child and hold her hand, they came forward and began calming her, while I still blew bubbles. After the ordeal they headed upstairs to the pediatric floor. After they were settled, I asked the child if they wanted a popsicle aka ice pop (who knew they were called this up in NY????). The child’s eyes grew wide and she nodded her head. Learning that she liked grape, I went and got one for her. Along with a movie and a very special toy.
Coming back in a little while later, I had the items along with a fake tea set and cookies. Before offering the gift, I asked the family if it was alright if the child have the cookies. They told me it was fine and the child began playing with the tea set. Her mom said “Do you want to ask Ashley if she wants some tea?” the child nodded her head and said in her little voice “Ashley do you want tea?” She was so cute! As we had a tea party the parents and I continued talking. They told me that they knew they had come to the right hospital. Not only, because the healthcare professional treated their daughter better, but because child life was there and really made a big difference and impact. They told me that they would see me the next day, but I had to tell them I was heading back to my home state on Saturday. Being sad that I was leaving the family told me to have a safe trip and the best of luck after graduation and that whatever hospital hired me were going to be very lucky. Sometimes it’s the little things.
During my three-and-a-half-month internship, I also learned that I LOVE same day surgery and Endoscopy/colonoscopy surgeries. It is amazing what you thought you ended up liking was still one of your favorite areas (Behavioral health), but that another area turned out to be just a little better. And it isn’t that I love BH any less, because I don’t, but I learned that you can have several areas of interest and that is okay.
The surgical areas allowed me to educate, prepare and distract during scary times. I prepped children as young as 3 up to 17 years of age. Working in surgeries you see how resilient children are. Nothing fazes them. Not even IV’s. Once the IV is in the children continuing play on the I-pad, continued to laugh as I blow bubbles or takeout several bears with big red kickballs on a game with the Virtual Reality Goggles. You also get the chance to have a very structured day and walk beside the patients and their families through registration, preparation, walking back to the surgical suite and check up on them in recovery. You are given the opportunity to build that rapport and to have that interaction at each of those areas. The family knows you are going to be there during every step of the way and they very much appreciate it.
Two of my favorite interventions during my internship consisted of syringe painting and my own little game. Sticker Scavenger hunt! The syringe painting allowed the patients to familiarize themselves with this medical equipment. It also allowed them to become creative and make a cool master piece with the medical equipment and paint!
The sticker scavenger hunt was used for those patients who had to get up and walk before being discharged i.e. appendectomy. Not only did this activity meet the doctors goal of the patient walking, but it also allowed the patient to gain mastery of walking and standing up straight as they hunted for the many stickers that were hidden around the unit. Once they found all the stickers the patient was able to pick a prize from the child life closet. During my internship I did approximately 6-10 sticker scavenger hunts.
Lastly, throughout my internship, I was given the amazing opportunity to educate student nurses about child life. I taught them about the long and hard process that it takes to become a CCLS. I told them that it is actually just has hard to become a CCLS as it is to become a doctor—getting your medical placement that is. I not only educated them about child life, but also educated them about the use of words when talking to the patients, being mindful of the child’s temperament and how children are not little adults. Children see things different compared to adults. For example, young children 2-5 have that magical thinking. They misunderstand or misconstrue something that has been told to them. Die vs. dye. By having the nurses explain to the young child in ways that they can understand allows for not only the patient to have a better medical experience, but also the families and the nurses and other healthcare professionals as well. Working together leads to a better outcome and a better day overall.
All and all my internship was an amazing experience! One I am truly grateful and blessed for and one I wouldn’t change for anything. As this chapter closed in my life, I now look to the future. Graduation is Saturday and I have been applying to jobs!
Until next time!