Meet Jenna: Certified Child Specialist
Speak Now for Kids honors child life professionals who are dedicated to helping children with difficult health circumstances. The following testimonial is courtesy of Children’s Mercy Kansas City in Kansas City, Missouri.
Jenna Simpson is a child life specialist at Children’s Mercy Kansas City and has spearheaded innovative interventions to help patients living with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) stay healthy and feel more like other kids.
Children with CF can be hospitalized for a week or two at a time when being treated for chronic issues associated with the genetic lung disease. Many inpatients are on nephrotoxic medications and need to manage fluid intake to prevent the risk of acute kidney injury. Jenna worked with Children’s Mercy pharmacists and dieticians to create fluid and drinking charts to help patients visually monitor daily intake.
Child Life regularly uses incentive and sticker charts, but Jenna took things to the next level. She knew the charts had to be interactive, engaging and fun to motivate the kids to keep track of fluid intake throughout the day. Some charts involve coloring, while others have removable Velcro pieces to mark how many ounces have been consumed. The one thing they all have in common is each and every chart is personalized. Jenna sometimes surprises kids with her designs, but most of the time she lets the kids choose what they want. She gets requests for sports teams, the different seasons, family pets (which has included a ferret) and Justin Bieber.
The best thing about the charts—they work. During a six month period, every single patient that used one of her fluid charts stayed hydrated and did NOT develop acute kidney injury! A lot of families say they use the chart at home too, which helps promote good fluid intake beyond the hospital stay.
Jenna also partnered with a Children’s Mercy Patient Activity Coordinator to use telemedicine technology to help promote socialization among patients in isolation. Patients with CF typically can’t leave their rooms or socialize with other kids like they normally would outside the hospital.
Jenna looked for ways to include these kids in normal daily activities and started using REX, a remote experience robot that consists of an iPad on a pole with a pair of self-balancing wheels, to help patients interact with one another. Patients can drive REX to the playgroup or other special events around the hospital and virtually interact with other kids and staff from the comfort of their room. Patients in isolation are able to play Pictionary and other games or even just socialize. REX was such a success that Jenna started utilizing iPad technology and Google Hangouts to connect patients. Children that have been readmitted to the hospital are now asking to use the technology to go to playgroup.
Jenna’s passion for her job exemplifies what child life specialists do—she makes kids feel empowered and comfortable during their hospital stay. The changes she has made at Children’s Mercy has positively impacted all of her patients.