This article was written by Lisa Miller.
Over the past few weeks, I have had time to reflect on my daughter’s two hospitals encounters from the last 18 months. The first was for an eye condition that required a few days in the hospital with specialists observing and testing, including a CT scan which can be challenging for a 7 year old.
Most recently, another few days in the hospital after she had a seizure to have a neurologist and his team observe her while she had two major diagnostics tests – an EGG and an MRI.
Both hospital encounters at our local health system were very stressful. There are few things more difficult in life than your child having a health issue.
On our first stay, my daughter had to get a CT scan, and they thought they were going to need to sedate her for this test. It’s a frightening test to take as a 7 year old. It’s hard to explain what a CT scan does and to get a child to understand that she has to lie down to do the test and not move. A CT scanner is a large and intimidating machine, we had to figure out how to talk her through this experience as well as the other testing and manage our own stress with trying to get updates from nurses and staff. We made it through with a lot of prayers and no sedation.
However, our second hospital encounter, which was at the same hospital and same pediatric floor, was different in one very significant way.
The hospital had just brought on four new positions called child-life specialists to the pediatric floor.
This child-life specialist came into our daughter’s room with a big friendly warm smile and introduced herself and explained what she does for families. She was there to help our stay to be as easy and comfortable as possible and most importantly to work with my daughter in getting her ready for testing and to help her understand what was going on and to answer her questions.
Her first question: “What is your favorite color?” A question a child can relate to, for sure.
Once again, we were in the same position as they thought she may need to be sedated for the MRI and especially because it was going to take 45 minutes to complete. The child-life specialist showed my daughter on a tablet an actual MRI and what it looks like and how it sounds. My daughter was able to see it before the test and was able to ask questions and she was prepared and successfully made it through the MRI without sedation. She stayed with us during the MRI and comforted my daughter throughout the testing and also gave me support.
I had the benefit of experiencing a hospital visit before a child-life specialist and then having one during a second stay and it absolutely changed my daughter’s experience and how we were able to support her. It’s a remarkable way to help children through a hospital visit and also for their families.
Hospitals don’t receive extra reimbursement for having a child-life specialist—they don’t get paid more for having this extra cost. Yes, it makes the burden less for the nurses and others—however; this is a significant cost for hospitals to add this high level of care.
How does this happen?
The hospital has to be financially sound—and has to be focused on eliminating unnecessary costs so that money can be put into necessary and innovative investments that will positively impact patient care like a child-life specialist does.
This is why the work we do at VIE Healthcare is so meaningful; we know that all of the cost savings we achieve in collaboration with our hospitals goes to delivering exceptional patient care and to funding programs like child-life specialists. Every dollar saved from utilization improvements or renegotiated vendor contracts with lower pricing goes directly to patient care for children, seniors, adults with chronic conditions and for providing life-saving care from accidents.
Cost awareness is paramount for every hospital employee, understanding utilization, pricing and to be aware of waste as a driver to fuel patient care innovation.Cost awareness is paramount for every hospital employee, understanding utilization, pricing and to be aware of waste as a driver to fuel patient care innovation. Click To Tweet
This week, I’d like to share a Hospital Cost Improvement Strategy with you, that also includes an exclusive Annual Budget Preparation Guide. It contains cost improvement strategies and effective budget preparations that can help your hospital fund patient enhancing experiences such as a child-life specialist.
In case you wanted to know more about a child-life specialist, this is their job description:
Our teams are focused on changing the lives of our patients by providing the highest level of care each and every day. Lead by trained pediatric experts, the Child-Life Program uses developmentally appropriate play, education and entertainment to create a light-hearted atmosphere that supports the emotional well-being of young patients and their families. The Child-Life Program has a family centered model of care that focuses on:
- Teaching coping strategies to ease anxiety
- Providing developmentally appropriate preparation for procedures
- Utilizing distraction techniques during procedures to reduce pain and anxiety
- Providing psychosocial and emotional support for the child and family
- Supporting children and families through grief, bereavement and loss
- Providing opportunities for therapeutic, developmental and creative play
- Educating children about their diagnosis in a developmentally appropriate manner
- Correcting misconceptions about illness, the hospital and procedures
If you have children, and you find yourself in a hospital with them, I hope that you experience what it is like to have a child-life specialist reassure them and make the experience one you can remember with fondness.