NEWARK—A child’s needs in the hospital are similar to those at home. Young patients need to feel secure and comforted, especially during the stress of illness and hospitalization.
Recognizing that hospitals may be frightening to children, the Child Life staff at Children’s Hospital of New Jersey (CHoNJ) at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center has created an environment filled with arts and crafts, pet therapy and clown visits, and many other comforts.
“Our goal it to ease children’s fears and provide emotional and psychosocial care to make the hospital experience as stress-free as possible for both the child and the family,” says Anne Reilly, Director of Child Life at CHNJ.
Send in the Clowns
The Starlight Children’s Foundation of NY/NJ/CT provides the hospital with a clown named Hug-a-Me who comes every Friday to entertain patients in the Pediatric and ICU units. In addition to teaching the children magic tricks, she helps the pediatric patients forget the medical tests of the day and just enjoy being children.
Starlight also provides CHoNJ with a grant that fund a Child Life Specialist position as well as monthly parties on the inpatient units, such as Mardi Gras and luaus.
Here Come the Hounds
Patients who may be missing their own family pets look forward to twice a week visits with specially trained animals that have been proven to lessen anxiety. At CHoNJ, pediatric patients are visited by Kodi, a lovable blond Labrador retriever owned by Dave Syme, an employee and Help Desk technician.
The 90-pound, five-year-old dog performs a few tricks as an introduction, gives a paw, spins in a circle and sits up and begs with two paws in the air. Delighted children talk about their own pets and enjoy petting this calm canine.
“The children enjoy his gentle, sweet disposition and his visits brighten their day,” reports Reilly. “Petting Kodi helps to calm them and soothes their mood.”
Safe, Friendly Spaces
Pediatric patients have their own safe spaces in the hospital where no treatments can take place. The Therapeutic Playroom is filled with toys and books and bright colors, all inviting to children to read, explore and color. Patients over the age of thirteen are able to utilize the Teen Lounge which offers a teen night, flat screen television, computers, and state-of-the-art video game systems. It also allows for patients of the same age to interact and feel less alone
Comfort for Patients and Families
Child Life specialists aim to minimize trauma associated with pediatric illness and hospitalization. The clinically trained staff provides emotional and social support as well as bedside play therapy and lots of laughter. Services include preparation for tests and surgeries, support during medical procedures, therapeutic medical play using special dolls, stuffed animals and medical equipment and sibling support.
For more information about inpatient programs at CHoNJ, contact the Child Life Department at 1-973-926-7198.
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