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2019-2020 Annual Report - March

A Day in the (Child) Life

Children’s Hospital has had a Child Life department for more than 40 years. Why? Because we take play very seriously.

Child Life specialist Anna Taylor came to East Tennessee Children’s Hospital fifteen years ago because she wanted to help children feel better while they were healing. As a member of our Child Life team, Anna’s role is crucial to our organization’s patient-focused mission.

As a child life specialist, Anna works with some of our most sick patients – those who are completing treatment in our Hematology and Oncology Clinic. So what does it look like to play professionally with terminally ill children? Anna has offered some insight into this very child-focused service.

Child Life specialist Anna Taylor strings Beads of Courage with Michelle, age 18 in the Hematology/ Oncology Clinic
Child Life specialist Anna Taylor strings Beads of Courage with Michelle, age 18 in the Hematology/ Oncology Clinic

What does your typical day look like?

A typical day for me, as the Child Life specialist in the Hem/Onc clinic, consists of helping kids with blood draws and port accesses in the clinic. I work hard to make the clinic a fun, positive environment by giving them opportunities to play, and helping them cope with routine procedures like port accesses and spinal taps. These things might be routine, but to children they are scary and painful. But children are so tough, and they can endure so much when they are allowed to focus on a game or play with toys instead.

What does an extra special day look like?

A special day might be when I get to go to camp with my patients. For one week out of the year, these children get to experience life and play despite their illness. We are out of the hospital doing fun camp activities like swimming, canoeing and archery. Thanks to donors and special support, these kids get to experience a real camp for free – and we have staff onsite to ensure these children get to play safely while still being kids. Going to Camp Eagle’s Nest each year is fun because I get to be in a different environment with my patients and see them doing new things and making friends with kids who are going through the same thing.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is seeing kids become more comfortable with coming to the clinic and getting whatever treatments they need. Even though no one wants to have to come to the hospital, seeing them come in excited to play and see the staff they've gotten to know well is such a sweet positive thing.

What is the hardest part of your job?

The hardest part of my job is seeing these kids go through what they have to go through. Our patients go through a lot of hard things, but they are so strong. It's hard to see them in pain, but it's great to see all the staff work together to help the patients.

What are you most proud of about your role?

The thing I'm most proud of in my Child Life role is how much we are used here at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. All the staff in all the areas use Child Life all the time to help their patients. It's great to work at a hospital that utilizes and incorporates us in the care of their patients.

Care Coordination Stats 2020

Visits with patients by Child Life Specialists 19,376
Family encounters by social work 17,888
Families helped by Interpretive Services 7,611
Top Three Languages Interpreted Spanish, Swahili, Akateko
Hours of family support by chaplains 2,860
Hours Food & Nutrition consultants spent with inpatient, outpatient and clinic families 13,217

Did you know? Along with their trained play therapies, our Child Life team likes to help patients celebrate occasions like birthdays or holidays while they are in our hospital. From birthday cake to tutu parades, every special moment relies on generous donations from our community. You can help a child celebrate their birthday, or a huge milestone like the end of their chemotherapy with an off-chemo party, by making a donation below.

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