Hospitals can be a daunting place for anyone, but especially for children. And at Women and Children's Hospital, three child life specialists help alleviate that stress and fear.
"We use play to make the hospital a non-threatening environment," said Janie Eldridge.
Eldridge started as the hospital's first child life specialist in 2008—her focus is pediatric oncology. Part of her job is helping the chemotherapy patients feel strong, despite any doubts.
"(They say) I can't do this IV start," said Eldridge. "And then helping them develop coping mechanisms so that they come out on the other side and say, that wasn't bad. I did a good job."
One of the tools is the Beads of Courage. For every poke, every doctor's visit or chemotherapy treatment, the child gets a bead. It's a unique and tangible way for them to track their journey.
Francesca Kizer, who helps kids up to 18-years-old, says a hands-on approach is the best way to make scary and sometimes painful routines seem like no big thing.
"We'll bring in a doll and let them place an IV on a little doll. That way, they understand it's not just a needle, it's just a little straw and they can have a hospital buddy for the rest of their stay," said Kizer.
But for premature babies, it's the parents who need help the most. And that's where Julie Mentel, the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit and Emergency Room specialist comes in.
"I provide support, explain to the families that yes, you can touch your baby. This is how you pick them up, you'll need to worry about those tubes, but you can still parent your baby," said Mentel.
The program has been proven to be very effective and so have children's resilience.
"Kids are so strong," said Kizer. "They are so strong and part of our job is to make sure they realize they can do it."