Students of the Child-Life Program of Child and Family Studies at the College of Health Sciences and Professions (CHSP) have been working since early December with the Department of Health of the City and County of Athens (ACCHD) Child ages 5 to 11 immunization clinics to help children who receive the vaccine understand what is going on and relieve their anxiety.
Rebecca Robison-Miller, Senior Director of Community Partnerships at the College and Assistant Professor in Child and Family Studies, understood and advocated for the need for child life interventions at these clinics and is partnering with ACCHD to find ways for Child Life program students to gain experience in the community while providing a benefit to local families.
Jenny Chabot, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Child and Family Studies, and Janelle Mitchell, Clinical Assistant Professor in Child and Family Studies, also worked with ACCHD to finalize the details. student work and helped clinics.
“Our students leverage their academic prowess along with their clinical and volunteer experience to support children and families during some of their most vulnerable times,” said Mitchell. “Medical trauma and negative health care experiences can impact our ability to receive care; therefore, the vaccination clinic is a wonderful opportunity for our students to engage in evidence-based practice while promoting emotional safety. Additionally, we spend time in our CHSP interdisciplinary simulation lab involving case scenarios, so this opportunity allows our students to use their assessment skills and practice situational awareness.
Students help orient families arriving at the immunization clinic, as well as use their assessment skills to identify children who may have difficulty adjusting at the entrance to the building and during wait times. . To help children relax and reduce anxiety, students will engage with children using evidence-based distraction techniques and play modalities, creating a relationship while they wait. Some of these interesting activities can include blowing bubbles, playing card games, doing art activities, and debriefing families.
Mitchell explains that play is universal, therefore we understand that children communicate through play and use play as a fundamental building block for connecting and allowing us to meet them at their developmental level.
“Our goal is to promote optimal health care experiences by reducing fear of the unknown and supporting the overall development of children. The nearest stand-alone children’s hospitals in the area that offer child protection programs are Nationwide Children’s, Cincinnati Children’s, and WVU Children’s Hospital, so unless a child or family has received child protection services. childhood the concept is relatively new, ”Mitchell said. “We want families to know that when you create a welcoming environment, incorporate play, and provide children with choice and control, their overall perception of the healthcare experience can change for the better. “
For Hayleigh Larmore, a graduate student of the Child Life graduate program studying to become a certified child life specialist, being able to reduce children’s fear of getting vaccinated and raising awareness of the importance having child life specialists in health care are the best aspects of working in these clinics.
“I think exposing the community to the work of children’s lives will not only really help the process of immunizing children, but it will also expose the community so that they can also use children’s lives in the future,” Larmore said. “I also think that our program’s involvement in these clinics shows how much we prioritize and care about the well-being of children in the Athens community.
At the clinic, students also accompany families to immunizations and private rooms and determine the appropriate level of intervention for each child. For some children, explaining the sequence of events, giving honest information about what is about to happen, and using low-threat language such as the word ‘push’ instead of pulling will help positively impact their ability. to face. Once the child has received their poke, the students will provide post-operative support.
“A lot of these kids dread the experience, however, once they see all the bubbles, toys, costumes and smiley faces, they start to feel more comfortable and reassured,” Larmore said. “I feel so good that I can be helped and get to know all types of children and families in my community. “
Bridget Franklin, a second year Graduate Child Life graduate student studying to become a Certified Child Life Specialist, also spoke about how immunization clinics enabled her to build on her knowledge. and her existing skills in child development, psychology and family studies.
“It is such a privilege to be a part of something that we are fortunate to have in Athens,” Franklin said. “I have the opportunity to develop relationships with children and families in the Athens community and create a positive healthcare experience. I am able to use different types of play to create distraction, develop preparation, and initiate adaptation to the whole vaccine experience. These clinics allow us graduate students to see theory come to life in practice as we navigate today’s healthcare needs. This opportunity is invaluable to our program.