Emergencies happen every day – and thank goodness Mercy's Trauma Services team members are trained to respond under that kind of pressure. But when their patient is a child, even they admit “it makes something as simple as starting an IV that much more tense.”
“Especially for a child who’s never been to the ER, they don’t understand what’s happening, and they’re afraid,” added Keith Schaefer, manager of Mercy’s Pediatric Trauma Program. “Their fear and anxiety can cause more pain and potentially destroy their whole medical care experience.”
That’s why the designation of Child Life Specialist Tailor Schlotzhauer to work side-by-side with Mercy staff in the ER is long-awaited, welcomed news. With a child life specialist in our ER, emergency physician Dr. Holli Bagwell said, “I know they’re focused on the child’s emotional needs, which means I can focus on providing the best medical care.”
Tailor is a member of Mercy’s Child Life Services, which began at Mercy in Springfield in 1993. Besides Tailor, there are four other specialists working throughout Mercy Hospital Springfield. In addition to pediatric patients, they’re also called to assist with children of adult patients who are in Mercy's care. Wherever they’re called to help, Keith says, “They’re specially trained to understand a child’s developmental needs and can therefore explain what’s happening in language a child understands.”
Each of Mercy's certified Child Life specialists use their knowledge of child development and developmentally appropriate interventions, and often through therapeutic play they educate, prepare and support children through difficult tests and procedures. They also play an important role in helping a child through the sometimes drastic changes that happen within their families with a family member’s illness or death.
“As a physician, I know we’re very fortunate to have Child Life Services,” Dr. Bagwell said. As a mom, she added, “It makes a big difference knowing that our trauma center will have a designated child life specialist. That would give me all the reason I need to bring my daughter here.”
Throughout March, Mercy celebrates Child Life Month; this year, kids were visited by Jumpin' Joey, Louie from the Springfield Cardinals, and Scoopy, the Culver's mascot - among others. While the team's focus is always on youngest patients and visitors, the results of their efforts are what allow Mercy to give children and their families the best care possible.
That care even comes in the form of planning birthday parties for hospitalized children or making sure they stay up to speed with their schoolwork.
How has Child Life Services made a difference for you or your patient? In celebration of Child Life month, please share your experiences by emailing mallorie.mendell@ mercy.net.