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Child Life Specialist Services at Huntsman Cancer Institute

Read Time: 2 minutes

Video Transcript

Abbie Owens: I'm the child life specialist—I'm a part of Patient and Family Support Services. So our whole role is to support exactly that—patients and families when they go through this.

We provide procedural preparation, procedural support, education, therapeutic play—where you have a little hospital buddy and some real, and maybe some pretend medical equipment. It allows the child to really process on their level what is happening to them and have some sense of choice and control. We try to see the world through a child's eyes and their lens—how they're experiencing it with their senses.

A lot of times in radiation, which is where a lot of the kids here at Huntsman come, it will be at the initial consult where I'll meet them. Anything that is potentially invasive or uncomfortable is a good time for a child life specialist to get involved.

We recently had a young child on radiation treatment who was quite nervous to start understandably, this is a new place with new faces. This patient came for about six weeks every day Monday through Friday for his treatment. We were able to utilize therapeutic play and distraction—have different activities each day. We saw a very drastic change from his first port access to his last—that he felt a lot more comfortable with staff. In fact, this patient's family told me that he was sad that radiation was over—that he looked forward to coming to see his friends each day to play. He knew the routine.

Seeing a patient who can go from being scared and something so scary to feeling strong and confident and connecting with people around is a really beautiful thing to see. If a child is coping well, typically a parent copes better too. We frequently talk with parents about previous medical experiences that they've had, where their child is at—parents know their kids best. And so a huge part of our role is to support parents helping their kids as well. So it's a really family-centered practice. Cancer diagnosis affects a whole family.

I feel honored that I get to spend time with these kids and parents during such a vulnerable time. I don't take it lightly. You have people here who care and are ready to support you and I feel really lucky to be one of those, but there are so many at Huntsman who care and who have seen similar situations and are ready to take care of you.

Cancer touches all of us.