MedWatch Today: How child life specialists help children during their hospital stays

Med Watch Today

When one and half year old Brooks Robertson was burned on his hand and leg, his parents knew to take him to the Leon S. Peters Burn Center at Community Regional Medical Center. He received exceptional care by the doctors, nurses, and medical staff, including child life specialists, who helped Brooks and his parents get through the ups and downs that can come with a severe burn injury to a young child.

Alexis Castro is a certified child life specialist. She said, “A child life specialist helps children in the hospital to decrease their anxiety and increase coping skills and we do that in a number of ways.”

Alexis was one of a few child life specialists who helped take care of Brooks when he was admitted to the Leon S. Peters Burn Center in January. His mother Ashley explains what happened.

“I heard the smoke alarm go off, so I ran into the kitchen and I thought I had turned the stove top off, but it was still on and I had went to grab the pan, and as I was turning to take it outside so the smoke alarm would go off, Brooks was next to me, and so a little bit of what was in the pan splashed his right hand and then also went through his pant leg onto his right leg,” said Ashley.

Cooked, hot oil had burned Brooks’ skin.

Brooks’ father Charlie Robertson added, “They (the burns) were pretty severe at first. We were thinking that he was maybe gonna have to get some skin grafts and those kinds of things.”

Charlie and Ashley said their child was in pain, but the traumatic situation was lessened with the help of Alexis.

Alexis said, “Working with Brooks was great. His parents are so sweet and we really wanted to make sure, especially for children Brooks’ age that are infant and toddler, they don’t have the words to understand what is happening. And we all look very scary, so it was really important to work with his parents to make sure that they understood the appropriate responses that he was gonna have and how we were gonna help them together get through it.”

Research shows the interaction a child life specialist brings a young patient can have a major impact on his or her healing and well-being.

“We help educate the child using age appropriate language to prepare them for that medical experience and also increase coping skills to help them be successful through that scary medical experience,” Alexis continued.

The Robertson’s said Alexis would play with Brooks to provide a distraction so they could give full attention to doctors and nurses, teaching them how to take care of Brooks’ burns and dressing change at home.

Ashley said, “We felt so much emotional support from Alexis and Maryann and it was just a very scary and traumatizing moment for all of us as a family, and not only did they really support him, but they provided a lot of emotional support to us as parents because we were really scared as well.”

Today, you wouldn’t even know Brooks was burned, and his parents credit his healing to the staff at the burn center.

If you would like to give to the life-changing work at the Leon S. Peters Burn Center, click here.

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