The hospital can be a frightening place for young patients, not knowing what to expect with procedures or what might happen next. At Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma, a team of child life specialists work to make the hospital less scary for patients, working with them throughout their stay to help them know what to expect, and even bring a little fun into the hospital.
Child Life Specialist Tryphena Pinch considers herself to be a child translator. When a patient, Eva, came to the hospital with a broken arm, she explained in an easily understandable way what would happen in surgery. When providers prepared Eva to go into the operating room, Tryphena also dressed up in a gown and gloves, just like the surgeons, which managed to make Eva laugh. It also helped Eva be brave to have Tryphena with her, as Eva’s parents were unable to accompany her into surgery.
“For a child, hospital lingo is the equivalent of being in a foreign country’s airport trying to find a flight home. How scary might that be?” Tryphena says. “We use words that make sense to children to talk about fears, medical equipment and hospital procedures.”
In addition to working with patients using craft supplies, toys, iPads and even virtual reality glasses, the child life specialists also work in partnership with doctors, nurses, social workers and families to meet the emotional, developmental and cultural needs of each child and family. This includes working with siblings. Altogether, this works helps the healing process, getting their young patients back on their feet quicker. Read more about the Mary Bridge child life specialists. (Tim Pfarr)