If you’re not putting yourself out there on whatever unit you’re on, no matter how much education you provide the multidisciplinary staff regarding what you can do for the patients, they won’t always call you. However, if you’re constantly on the unit, you’ll get
“Oh! Just the person I was looking for,”
“I was just about to call you!”
“There’s child life! Hey, I think we need your help!”
And this is the sweet spot. Show don’t tell.
New nurse education is wonderful and beneficial; but nurses won’t truly understand what you’re doing until they see it in action. There’s only so much that one can take in (especially new nurses who are being bombarded with a million things to try and remember) that your little brochure or PowerPoint regarding what you can provide as a child life specialist will only go so far.
What they will remember is when they’re admitting a new patient and trying to talk to the parents about allergies the patient may have, or symptoms the patient is experiencing, all while the patient is bouncing off the walls. The nurse is thinking about the three other patients she has to do vitals on in the next ten minutes, and that this is clearly going to take much longer than she planned. When *POOF* you magically walk in with a handful of toys and instantly the child is preoccupied with you and the toys, thus making the nurse’s job much easier.
“Wow that was so helpful. Perfect timing.”
Pros: This nurse will probably call you next time she’s in a similar situation and could use some distraction while she talks to a family, giving you the perfect opportunity to build rapport with a child before anything painful or new arises.
Or when they’re in the treatment room trying to start an IV on a screaming and thrashing 15-month-old while patient’s mother is sitting off to the side unsure of how to help her sweet baby.
“How can I start an IV on a moving baby? This is never going to work.”
Cue you walking in with bubbles and now the 15-month-old is laughing. You advocate for a comfort position with patient’s mother engaging in the procedure. Mother holds the child chest-to-chest and now he is calm, in his mother’s arms, with his arm sticking out from underneath his mother’s arm. This makes it easy for the nurses to look at his arm since it is no longer a moving target.
Pros: This nurse will probably think of you as essential the next time she starts an IV in the treatment room as she was able to SEE that you were such a huge help in that situation.
And what about your creativity? Your creativity is a huge part of what makes you a great child life specialist! The ability to quickly think on your feet and come up with unique solutions is something that many nurses will remember most.
During my first year as a child life specialist, I was working with an oncology patient who had been on the inpatient unit for several weeks. We had a big snow – the big, fluffy kind that is perfect for making snowmen – and eleven-year-old, James* was feeling really down that he couldn’t go out and play in the snow.
Cue me going down to the main entrance in my winter coat and boots and collecting a basin full of the fluffiest snow. As I walked down the hallway to James’ room, several nurses looked at me quizzically and one even said “Is that snow?! What is that for?” I explained that James was really upset he couldn’t go out and play, so I figured I’d bring the snow to him instead. James was SO excited! He made several mini snowmen from the comfort of his bed.
Pros: When nurses see your creativity in action, they’ll look to you for future opportunities for creativity and deem you a crucial part in problem solving to create unique solutions.
When you show and don’t just tell people that you’re essential – they’ll have no choice but to believe you! Children need child life specialists in their corners to speak to them using that child friendly language. Good rapport with the medical staff is the best way to get the job done quick, right, and smooth!