I went to my site last week to get some more hours in and I am very glad I went. After a few weeks of learning new things, I was hoping to finally 'get my feet wet' and observe a procedure. Although I had observed an LP in the oncology clinic a few times, I wanted to observe something different and new. While observing a Child Life Specialist on one of the regular units, I was able to pre-op and then observe a few procedures. Both of the patients received PICC lines, which are more permanent IV's. With both patients, I was able to learn what PICC lines are, what they do, and how to relay that information to patients of different developmental stages. We had numerous communication problems with the first patient and I found it very frustrating to have to simply deal with his anxiety, without being able to explain what was happening. One passion I have is to use ASL and educate other people in sign language. However, it was highly frustrating when the mother of the patient (who only spoke Spanish), did not even teach her young child how to use Mexican Sign or any other form of signed language. Although my supervisor and I signed with the patient, we were aware of his limited understanding, confusion, and fear. However, while the first procedure was frustrating from the insurmountable language barrier, I was frustrated at the end of the second procedure for a different reason. I truly loved learning about the procedure, the sedation process, and how the medical staff work together to complete the procedure. Also, it was interesting to watch how a CLS works in tandem with medical staff, often without the request of help from the medical staff. Because the nurse administering the PICC line was relatively new at her position, my supervisor did small things to help alleviate tension in all of the people in the room, to aid the nurse, and to help the patient. With this second patient, a different ER doctor was monitoring the sedation and he started to play with the distraction toy my supervisor had used with the patient. Although I have experienced some harsh glances or unfriendly comments from medical staff before, I found it highly insulting when the doctor ridiculed the CL profession. In the middle of the room filled with the nurses, patient, CLS, and the patients' family, the doctor told me that I have been wasting my years at school getting my degree if I'm only going to play with toys when I'm done. I was pretty insulted and didn't know how to respond so I didn't really say anything. A few other specialists have mentioned their frustrations over this attitude and ignorance that many of the medical staff have. Toys are not always merely toys. For children who are patients in a hospital, toys provide distraction, entertainment, education from learning about medical terms and procedures, and they provide familiarity and a calming effect. Dramatic play also allows children to express feelings of fear, aggression, confusion, and contentment. I guess I didn't realize it, but I am now highly opinionated on the importance of toys and play for children in hospitals.
Furthermore, after talking with a few specialists, I think I have found my project! I am planning on organizing and outlining some medical play crafts and activities. Although the specialists have done some medical crafts in the past, there is no organized resource to pull prepared lessons from. I hope to work on this both at my site and off-site. By creating this resource, the staff in the playroom and the other CLS can quickly locate these useful distracting and educating tools for children. Crafts allow the patients to be distracted from their present circumstances, giving them control over completing the task at hand. Also, as patients maintain a certain amount of control over their project, a CLS can then teach them about the medical meaning of the craft as well as help them cope with their situation by guiding them in discussing their feelings.