Slime, Play and Art Normalize Hospital Experience

Covenant Child Life Specialist Mariah Bruff helps to relax pediatric patient while preparing for a procedure

Illness, injury, disability and hospitalization can be uneasy, stressful experiences for kids and their families. Normalizing the hospital environment rests in the capable hands of special Covenant experts called “child life specialists.”

Mariah Bruff is one of those specialists. She brings a degree in psychology, classroom teaching experience, and hospital emergency room and pediatric know-how to her role in easing the fears of Covenant’s youngest patients.

Being sick and in the hospital disrupts a child’s life, Bruff explains. Whether it’s a lab draw, an imaging procedure or surgery -- there’s plenty besides pain to throw off a youngster’s sense of normalcy:

  • Loss or routines and rituals
  • Feelings of isolation and loneliness
  • Fear of loss of control
  • Missing out on social and school opportunities

Bruff uses a variety of tactics to minimize trauma and help young patients better understand what they are encountering during their stay at Covenant.

“Slime is something we make a lot of,” Bruff jokes. “It sounds odd but bringing play into the hospital environment normalizes it for kids.” She also uses age-appropriate art, games, and books to encourage her patients to talk, share emotions, and work through their concerns.

Healthcare is complicated. Bringing it down to a child’s level while offering them comfort and means of self-expression goes a long way in helping them understand what’s happening around and to them, Bruff adds. The overall goal is to facilitate both physical and emotional healing.

“You can see in their body language. Providing them with activities and one-on-one interaction puts them at ease. They become so much more relaxed and interactive.”

And so does the rest of the family. “If you come to Covenant, you can be assured that the pediatric team is awesome,” Bruff says. “We all work together to meet the specific needs of patients and their families wherever they’re at on this health journey.”

Child life specialists are most often found in Covenant’s pediatric intensive care unit, outpatient surgery, imaging, and the sedation clinic. If you or your child would like to request the services of a child life specialist, call (989) 583-4187.

Posted Date: 4/19/2022

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