Helping Kids be Kids

Hospitals can be intimidating for a sick child. That’s where Child and Youth Therapeutic Services come in, supporting patients through programs like child life , music therapy, pet therapy and therapeutic clowning. The teams’ evidence-based work has a remarkable impact on patient wellbeing, and through even the smallest actions, can transform patient experiences.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Mirth Unit—Medicine Incorporating Remedies that Tickle the Heart. This merry team of therapeutic clowns brings joy to patients and families in a manner that is safe, respectful and sensitive to the needs of kids and their families.

“Recently I visited a patient suffering from anxiety. I brought in a little toy bird, which I balanced on his finger, and he immediately opened up about his own bird at home and all of his animals. Afterward, his nurse told me that was the first time she had seen him smile. That was so special to hear.” – Melissa, aka Cosmo the Clown

Child life provides kids with the support and information they need to process their experiences in-hospital. From teaching breathing exercises to walking a child through a practice MRI, a child life specialist can be a game-changing member of a patient’s medical team.

“One of the best things about kids is their imagination. But in an unfamiliar environment, that imagination can make hospitals and procedures more challenging. Child Life Specialists use the child’s language, play, to help patients process and cope with hospitalization.” – Gloria, child life specialist

It’s incredible how music can rapidly change the mood in a patient’s room. Music therapists harness the power of music to bring the “familiar” into an unfamiliar hospital setting, through singing, playing instruments and even technology-assisted songwriting. This helps create a safe space for self-expression and emotional processing.

“I’ve had parents say to me that this is the first time they’ve seen their child be the person they know and recognize at the hospital. It’s so important to be able to do that, and I am so proud of what we get to do here.” – Carol, music therapist”

Through the incredible power of donors, Child and Youth Therapeutic Services can continue to improve overall outcomes for patients at BC Children’s in their own unique ways. One of the team’s most recent achievements was expanding child life’s presence throughout the hospital, including the Ledcor Children’s Emergency, last year. Looking to the future, the team is dreaming big about how much more they might accomplish to improve the lives of patients and families.

“I’m so grateful to be part of the journey of these children who need such intensive care, to be there for their ups and downs, find moments of fun, comfort and kindness and help them and everyone remember they are, above all, still kids.” – Natasha, child life specialist

Clown: Clowning around
Pet therapy: A hug from a furry friend
Child life: Getting familiar with a procedure
Music therapy: The wonder of music

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