Coming to a hospital for imaging tests can be a daunting experience for children and their families. Child life specialists work collaboratively with the radiology team to prepare children and families for medical procedures, help empower children during the imaging studies and ease their fears and worries.
Equipped with bubbles, puppets, dolls, books and other toys, they are masters of distraction. They use their expertise in child development to help children and families during invasive medical procedures such as nuclear medicine exams or imaging of the genitourinary tract.
Child life specialists will often call parents in advance to talk about the upcoming exam. If parents are well-informed and confident, their children will be less anxious about what is going to happen at the hospital.
Child Life Specialists:
- Provide parents with age-appropriate language they can use to explain the procedure to their child.
- Help parents feel more secure. Just knowing that someone who is specially trained in helping children cope is going to be in the procedure room lessens adult anxiety.
- Ask questions in advance to learn about the child. We ask if there's a favorite blanket or doll the parents can bring in to help soothe their child. "For example, if a parent tells me that her child likes Dora the Explorer, you can bet I will make sure a Dora book is here for the child when he or she comes in," says Angela, one of the department's child life specialists.
- Often reassure parents that their children will be able to fully cooperate in the procedures.
- Help parents help their children during imaging exams, providing them with language that can reassure their child or letting them know when a hug won't interfere with the exam.
- Something as fun and simple as blowing on a colorful pinwheel can help children relax during difficult moments, and our child life specialists are experts in teaching young children breathing techniques in creative ways. In addition, they use visual imagery, music, videos and even soap bubbles to distract and calm -- whatever the situation calls for.
- Most imaging procedures require children to remain still, something that can seem next to impossible for a young child. Often it's a matter of presenting a child with choice -- we may ask, "Would you like to hold your legs by yourself or would you like me to help you?"
Kids who have outgrown balloons and bubbles can benefit from having someone coach them through their anxieties. Many times their anxiety comes from not fully understanding what the test involves. Having someone take them through it step-by-step can really make the difference.