Beeping hospital machines, the buzz of doctors and nurses, daily intake of medications, unknown medical procedures — situations like these associated with being at a hospital aren’t pleasant to many adults. Imagine how daunting it must be to a child.
Child Life Services with their team of child life specialists work every day to minimize the fear and stress experienced by children, adolescents and families during hospitalization. Jamie Jones, MS, is one of those team members for the Division of Pediatric Radiology at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital.
Jones helps children cope with the stressors created by doctors’ appointments, hospital stays and medical procedures. One misconception Jones sometimes encounters is that child life specialists are volunteers. Child life specialists are actually highly-educated, well-trained professionals with expertise in helping children and their families overcome life’s most challenging events.
March is Child Life Awareness Month, and Jones hopes to educate patients and parents about the resources offered by child life specialists at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital.
As a child life specialist in radiology, what is unique about your role?
Jamie Jones: I cover multiple areas in radiology including nuclear medicine, diagnostic radiology, interventional radiology, CT and MRI. I use a variety of different teaching interventions and distraction tools to help patients cope with challenges they may face. One intervention I utilize is a mock MRI program to help patients complete their MRI while being awake and not under general anesthesia. This specific program was created with a goal of reducing the number of MRI studies conducted under general anesthesia, thereby reducing unnecessary anesthesia and improving wait times. Our current success rate is 90 percent of our patients who complete our mock MRI pass the real MRI awake with no sedation. The patients who have completed the MRI awake have saved more than $800,000 over the past two years due to eliminating anesthesia.
What would you like parents to know about child life specialists and their role in the hospital?
I would love for parents to know our team is available to prepare and accompany the patients to procedures and surgery. I have observed from experience that parental anxiety decreases once the parents find out our team can be there for their child’s emotional support. There are some procedures and operations where parents can’t accompany their child, but we can. This knowledge can help decreases parental anxiety, which then decreases patient anxiety.
What are some of the specific services child life specialists offer?
We do everything from addressing social and emotional needs of each child to helping them understand a medical procedure or a diagnosis in a way that’s appropriate for someone their age to grasp. We also offer pre-surgery preparation and, like I mentioned, accompaniment to the operating room, as well as targeted diversion and relaxation techniques for patients during invasive procedures. After their visit we also offer grief and bereavement services and school reintegration programs.
In radiology, how do you help patients cope with difficult or stressful situations?
I often have patients who are scheduled to complete their MRI under general anesthesia. However, on the day of their appointment, if I assess they could complete the MRI without sedation, I will try to familiarize the patient with the procedure by utilizing pictures and sounds. When the patients complete the MRI successfully without sedation, they often say things like “I did it!” or tell their parents “I was able to stay still!” That’s the best feeling — to be able to give the patient some control in an environment where they are often out of control.
How has working as a child life specialist impacted your life?
I can truly say I enjoy coming to work every day. I have the opportunity to make a positive impact on a child by helping them overcome the overwhelming and scary situations they may face in a hospital setting. I believe there is something about this profession that truly changes your outlook on life and creates a passion for supporting others for no rewards — just the kindness of your heart.