“I think I’ve got the best job on the planet,” says Alison Everett, a Child Life Specialist at Surrey Memorial Hospital for 10 years.
Alison and her fellow Child Life Specialists help children and their families navigate their health care journey at the hospital from start to finish, considering the holistic wellbeing of each patient’s mental, emotional and social needs.
“We make the hospital a less scary place,” Alison explains.
And with 41 per cent of British Columbia’s youth living in the Fraser Health region – and more than 45,000 children treated at Surrey Memorial Hospital’s Pediatric Emergency Department so far this year – it’s a big job.
A Child Life Specialist’s care might include helping children and families understand medical procedures, processes or what to expect in recovery, for example, with information shared in age-appropriate ways, and respecting parents as the experts when it comes to their children.
Imaginative therapeutic play is a big part of care – making the hospital environment friendlier and helping reduce younger patients’ anxiety. It can help alleviate misconceptions, answer questions, and identify things children may be worried about, even if they can’t articulate it themselves.
“We explain things to kids in non-medical ways, and we use play to do that – our tools are toys,” Alison says.
Play can also be a distraction – something to think about instead of their health concerns or coming procedure.
“Without play, kids are going to be more worried and scared, and their parents are going to be more worried and scared, and care is going to slow down. If children feel safe, doctors and nurses will have an easier time providing care,” Alison says.
A holiday wishlist for local children
This holiday season, the Surrey Hospitals Foundation is shining a light on the needs of local children.
With the Children’s Health Centre entering the final phase of renovations, welcoming colours and wall graphics will create a friendlier setting. Even small things like accessorizing IV poles and adding steering wheels to beds, stretchers and wheelchairs can greatly improve a child’s hospital experience, and are on the team’s wishlist.
But at the top of the list is a specialized piece of equipment for play therapy: a Snoezelen multi-sensory play cart that can travel to different hospital units, outfitted with soothing and calming toys.
While the hospital has a multi-sensory Snoezelen Room at the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Stabilization Unit (CAPSU), not all children can access the room. Those with physical health needs staying at the Children’s Health Centre, for example, even if they have acute mental health challenges, cannot physically go to CAPSU to access the room. The solution is to help bring mental health services to them, Alison explains.
This season, double your impact
Surrey Hospitals Foundation and its donors have supported the renovation of the Children’s Health Centre, and are the single greatest source for funding for art and music therapy for children’s mental health at Surrey Memorial Hospital.
“The Foundation and its donors are incredibly valuable in helping us do the work we do – we couldn’t do it without them,” Alison says.
During this giving season’s SHINE campaign, your donation can do even more: every donation until Dec. 31, will be matched dollar for dollar by local real estate company, Peterson, up to $200,000, giving your gift twice the impact!
And looking ahead to the Foundation’s annual Celebration of Care Gala coming up on Feb. 25, all proceeds from that magical evening will support children’s mental and physical health services at Surrey Memorial Hospital.
To learn more about the efforts to provide Surrey children the care they need, closer to home, visit surreyhospitalsfoundation.com