Having your child diagnosed with a life-threatening disease or chronic illness is every parent’s worst nightmare.
That's why there's a special job at Fairview to help our young patients and their families face the unexpected.
“I was always drawn towards working in the medical field,” says Ann Schular at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital. “I love working with children, and being a child-family life specialist is a perfect fit.”
Working closely with medical staff, Ann focuses on our youngest patients' emotional well-being. It's an integral part of the treatment and healing process. She spends her days helping kids overcome their fears and cope with stressful situations.
Just think how hard it would be for a kid to understand medical tests, checking in to a hospital or surgery.
Because kids process information so differently than an adult, it requires a different approach.
“Our job is to help children understand what’s going to happen, using terms the child can comprehend,” Ann says. “We may use a teaching doll, view photos or explore medical equipment."
Toys, games, books and other hands-on play help kids process their feelings and express thoughts.
"Children are better prepared and feel more comfortable if they’re able to see and touch the actual device or equipment," Ann says. "In most cases, the more information provided in a non-threatening way, the more confident the child will be."
When a child is diagnosed with an illness, it can affect the entire family. So child-family life specialists support siblings and parents, too.
By addressing the needs of all involved, the child will have a stronger emotional support system.
"It's so important that our patients have family support," Ann says. "We make sure everyone is educated and confident."
Child-family life specialists work in emergency rooms, hospital inpatient units and outpatient clinics. They may see a patient on a regular, sometimes daily basis at the Children's Hospital. Others might see a patient only once.
“I mostly work with children with a broken bone or those who need stitches,” says Meridith Bergquist, child-family life specialist at Fairview Ridges Hospital. “I also work with children whose parents are in critical care.”
Departments throughout Fairview Ridges use her specialties, including X-ray, lab and even surgery.
Both Ann and Meridith advocate for their patients and family members—making sure everyone has what they need, wherever they need it.
"It’s so rewarding when a child can handle a challenging experience such as a blood draw by implementing the coping techniques they've learned,” Ann says. "It makes me extremely proud."