Meet Laura: Certified Child Life 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 the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP).
Laura Mitchell, BS, CCLS, is a child life specialist at Nemours A.I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware. Laura works with a multidisciplinary health care team to facilitate procedures requiring sedation and increase coping and patient and family satisfaction. She also aims to decrease stress, anxiety, pain and other negative feelings or effects related to the hospital experience.
Laura believes that facilitating coping skills should be an integral part of all procedures, not just those requiring sedation. She and her team incorporate a structured, individualized approach to sedation and use both pharmacological and non-pharmacological methods to ensure that procedures are completed safely with minimal pain and anxiety. Some patients may only require pre-procedural preparation before induction while others may benefit from education, play and procedural support.
Many of her patients' concerns stem from a fear of the unknown. From a child's perspective, everything is unfamiliar and potentially threatening: the hospital environment, the health care team and the procedure itself. Children often wonder if they will experience pain and worry about being separated from parents or caregivers. Laura develops an individualized treatment plan, assessing how a patient's age, developmental level, emotional state, previous health care experiences, and family dynamics will inform their response to the experience. She also explains the unknowns to both the child and his or her family, providing information that is non-threatening, honest and developmentally appropriate.
Children are often tactile learners, and Laura likes patients “to explore the medical equipment on their own terms.” Touching a mask or catheter or offering developmentally appropriate medical play is a good way to build trust and get more information about a child's feelings and concerns. Laura and her team will speak with children about how a medication will be administered or how it might make them feel. Having this information in advance helps to reduce some of the anxiety associated with the experience.
The sedation team is committed to the One VoiceTM Approach:
- One voice should be heard during procedure
- Need parental involvement
- Educate patient before the procedure about what is going to happen
- Validate child with words
- Offer the most comfortable, non-threatening position
- Individualize your game plan
- Choose appropriate distraction to be used
- Eliminate unnecessary people not actively involved with the procedure
This methodology is critical because it supports health care teams in creating an environment that is less threatening for patients and their families. Laura's goal is to give pediatric patients "as much autonomy and power as we can in a situation where they don’t have a lot, and to have things make sense to them in an experience that is inherently overwhelming and very scary.”