Children in the ER: November 30, 2013

Talk about stress: if your child needs emergency medical attention it’s a double-dose. Both parents and child are likely to be full of anxiety. That’s where Jennifer Neill comes in.

“A child life specialist is someone who helps pediatric patients with hospitalization and we do that through play, education, normalizing the environment, providing preparation for upcoming procedures or surgeries -  anything we can do to help,” says Jennifer Neill, child life specialist with Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.

A joint collaboration between the American Academy of Pediatrics and American College of Emergency Physicians outlined appropriate standards to ensure children of all ages get proper care in the ER. Included is support care.  It’s a priority at Golisano Children’s Hospital.

“The basic rational is that hospitals are scary. A lot of things happen in hospitals that aren’t always explained to kids, parents or even adults. So if we bring it down to their level based on their development and cognitive development it helps them to better cope with what’s going on,” says Neill.

It’s impossible to take the ‘sting’ out of the ER, but the next-best-thing is to make it as painless as possible. A chief source of stress where kids are concerned, pediatric specialists pay extra attention on anything that requires a poke or a stick.

“They do have a fear of needles, of course. We can use topical numbing agents for IV placements, for a variety of different things. If you’re so ill that you’re not as alert to that, then I can be a hand to hold,” says Neill.

Calmness rule, so intimidating language is exchanged for easy-to-understand words and concepts. And kids, even sick or hurting find a prize or toy helps occupy their attention.

“We have different incentives; we have a treasure tower they can pick from and get the token and decide what they want. Sometimes I have teddy bears and things we can do to help the teddy feel a little bit better,” says Neill.

By deflating anxiety, kids can get the help they need and get back home where they belong.