Kansas City,
09:20 AM

Happy Child Life Week!

Child Life Team

It’s Child Life Week and the Children's Mercy team deserves to be celebrated for all they do to make a difference in children’s lives.

Being in a hospital can be quite scary, especially for young kiddos. There are often times of confusion, stress and anxiety about being in a hospital that can have a significant emotional impact on any child or family.

Our Child Life department promotes a positive environment for patients and families based on their needs. This is accomplished by providing materials and guidance for developmentally appropriate play, preparing children for medical experiences, advocating for patient and family rights, and promoting a non-threatening environment. The team tries to reduce stress and worry that may come with being in the hospital or from being ill through therapeutic and recreational play activities. Additionally, they provide services to help children continue to learn and grow while in the hospital and encourage patients to interact with other children – creating the greatest sense of normalcy possible.

 One of the many favorite aspects the Child Life department provides is the implementation of hospital-employed therapy dogs. Hunter, a 2-year-old golden retriever, is part of Children’s Mercy’s facility dog program and works primarily on the oncology floor. The program launched when he and Hope, who works at Children’s Mercy Kansas' epilepsy wing, arrived from their training at Canine Assistants in Atlanta in summer 2015. “For a child going through tests they’re not familiar with or situations that make them uncomfortable, there is nothing more calming than to be able to sit with a dog and pet them,” Ann Killen, one of the program’s donors, says of Hope’s impact on the epilepsy unit. While the dogs are primarily there for the patients, they help the staff, parents and siblings as well. Jenny Nordin, a nurse on the oncology floor, says Hunter’s presence has lessened the “hospital” feel of the unit. “We have a lot of bad news lingering around, and he helps take our minds, as well as the patients’ and families’ minds, off of those negative events that loom over us,” she says.

Recently, thanks to Child Life, Children’s Mercy has provided several special guests to roam the halls and visit with patients. Our superhero friends including Star Wars, Captain America and Supergirl brought their amazing superpower abilities to promote uplifted spirits and heartwarming smiles among young kiddos. Sesame Street Live brought Elmo and Cookie Monster for a read and sing along for patients who weren’t able to make it to the “Elmo Makes Music” show in town. Since most patients aren’t able to leave the hospital, they most likely weren’t able to enjoy the NCAA tournament festivities either. So, Child Life brought the March Madness to them! Big 12 mascots and cheerleaders filled the room with laughter, big smiles and hugs for the tiny fans. Even if it was for a split second, kids had a chance to forget they were in the hospital.

The Child Life department coordinates a wealth of other programs that mean so much to families. The creation station, kids in the kitchen and art workshops are a few of them. They also plan the special events with Kansas City's professional athletes, lead the sibling support program, music therapy, schedule various volunteer groups, plan evening programs and set up a gift shop during Christmas where parents can shop for gifts. Child Life also manages grief and bereavement support, diagnosis teaching, teaching coping skills as well as preparation and procedure support. 

Child Life documented a total of 214,856 interventions in the past year (February 2016-January 2017) and while they interacts with a variety of different procedures, here are the top 10 they were involved in the past year: 

1. IVs – 6,342                                  6. Sexual Abuse Exams - 1,620

2. Surgeries - 3,454                          7. Blood Draws – 1,596

3. MRIs - 2,105                                 8. Port Accesses - 1,186

4. Laceration Repairs - 2,089             9. Burn treatments - 969 

5. CTs – 1,623                                 10. Anesthesia/Sedation - 563 

What's new in the department??

  • We recently added an Art Therapist Volunteer, Kaley, to the team! She will be here two hours a week and will begin services on 6 Henson, then move to other units within a few weeks.
  • The Children's Mercy Hospital Kansas Child Life Department hosted their first Snowflake Shoppe this past December.
  • We have four Child Life Specialists working on the hospital-wide Comfort Promise Committee.

It’s difficult to capture all of the incredible things Child Life does for our families and patients, but their recognition is certainly deserved. Please help us thank them for making such an impactful difference here at Children's Mercy!


Learn more about what makes our Child Life department so special.