Child Life Heroes: A SpellBound Super User

At SpellBound, we know how important Certified Child Life Specialists (CCLSs) are to the patient experience in hospital and clinics. We have much respect for those who dedicate their careers to helping young patients and their caregivers, regardless of where they are at in their journey. Child Life students lend a unique perspective, and even though they are not yet certified professionals, they can make a meaningful impact in hospitals. One example is Paige Tapp, a Child Life student, who has gotten a taste of working in the field as an intern at Beaumont Children’s Hospital.

Photo provided by Paige Tapp

Photo provided by Paige Tapp

Paige encountered Child Life for the first time when she transferred to University of Michigan-Dearborn and learned about the program through a counselor. The perfect career lay before her when she realized all of her interests and three main areas of study all intersected in Child Life. Her internship at Beaumont has already taught her so much about the field and the many clinical and non-clinical responsibilities that come along with the title. She has had rotations in the general pediatric unit, in children’s surgery, and hematology and oncology, and learned practical skills from each area for her toolbox going forward. All that work has kept her busy, though, and she’s been challenged with juggling the various different assignments and projects on top of working many hours a week. “I have had to really focus on my time management to make sure I set aside time for myself for self-care, which is not always easy when I am so busy,” she says, “seeing how the child life specialists manage their time, I have learned tips for time management and learned that asking for help when I need it is always okay.”

Her biggest tip for fellow child life students and interns is to have experience in a range of different settings with children and to find the opportunities that will help refine their child life skills and stand out in a competitive field. For example, Paige volunteered at multiple places where children received support for grief, abuse, or neglect. She also encourages those who are passionate about the field to stay positive and keep pushing to get to that next step, whether it be another required class, a practicum, or an internship. “Keep trying to gain more experience because all of those experiences will help you to become an amazing child life specialist,” she says.

“I love hearing ‘I did it!’ or ‘that wasn’t so bad!’ and knowing that I helped that patient to get to feel that sense of accomplishment.”

Like most in Child Life, Paige loves having the tools like developmental play, preparation, procedural support, and relaxation techniques to completely change the trajectory of a child’s experience in the hospital. “I love seeing that sense of mastery and competence in children when they get through a procedure or something that is challenging for them. I love hearing ‘I did it!’ or ‘that wasn’t so bad!’ and knowing that I helped that patient to get to feel that sense of accomplishment,” she says. Her biggest accomplishments have been those interactions with patients where she took them from being highly anxious and distrusting to calm and able to actively engage in play. One of the ways she has done this is with the help of SpellBound.

As part of her internship, Paige has been working on a project to implement SpellBound to be utilized by all CCLSs in the department. Needless to say, she has used SpellBound numerous times in a variety of different settings and has some amazing use cases as a result. “My go-to with SpellBound is building rapport with patients. I wanted to build trusting relationships with the patients so that I could also be that supportive person to help them through their treatment journey. It has been the perfect tool that allows children to break out of their shell,” she says. Her favorite thing about SpellBound is how highly engaging it is. “I had a child jump out of his seat to come over to me and interact with the animals on the iPad. I have used it with children that observed to be sad and closed off when walking into the room and it completely changes their mood to happy and giggly when they are interacting,” she says, “I love to see the initial shock on children’s faces when I show them SpellBound for the first time. The other day I had a child whose jaw dropped when he saw the lion roaring on the screen and looking to his mom like it was the coolest thing he has ever seen.”

Below we feature a few of Paige’s compelling SpellBound use cases:

SpellBound lion journey card in action.

SpellBound lion journey card in action.

Pre-Op Anxiety

I had a 6-year-old patient in Pre-Op that had high anxiety related to the hospital environment. Upon first meeting, he appeared anxious and said he didn’t want to be there. The patient tried running out of his room in the Pre-Op area and was screaming at his parents. He did not want to talk to any of the staff and he would hide when anyone entered the room. At first, he didn’t want anything to do with me, he didn’t want to even look at me. I went ahead and took the SpellBound cards out and he heard the animal noises as I played with them on the screen. His parents were saying, “Whoa, you have to come see this!” and so the patient slowly came to look over my shoulder at the iPad. The patient started tapping on the barrels and fish on the screen and exploring what he could do within the ship wreck scene. I eventually flipped back to the journey cards and he was instantly distracted and calmed by the animals walking around the screen and was tapping them to hear the noises they made. After engaging the patient in the SpellBound cards, he was able to calm down and focus on my preparation session because he realized that I was not a threatening person. I was able to take the patient from being completely non-willing to engage with any staff to being able to practice putting the anesthesia mask on his face. Most children are familiar with using mobile devices for play, so being able to change and control their own environment to be more friendly with the SpellBound cards can help to promote that sense of normalcy in an unfamiliar setting.

Overcoming Language Barriers

I used SpellBound with a 4-year-old boy that needed to have a finger prick and his port accessed in the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology clinic. The patient primarily speaks Spanish, but is able to understand a few words and phrases in English. Before meeting the patient, I knew I wanted to be able to engage him in play so that I could assess his current coping with his visit. I decided to try SpellBound with the patient because it’s highly engaging and not limited to any language. When I showed the patient SpellBound, he immediately engaged in the animals on the screen and hopped off the chair to tap on the animals to hear the noises they made. The patient was so excited and was taking the cards and flipping through to see which one to use next. I would say the names of the animals in English and the patient’s father would say what they are in Spanish to further engage the child in our play session. The patient was very explorative with the cards and tried to use a couple at once, and then watching and giggling as the animals were on top of his hands. During the finger poke, the patient was completely distracted while sitting on his father’s lap as he used his free hand to interact with the animals I showed him on the screen. He loved tapping on the egg to see the Phoenix fly into the air and continued repeating the process. The patient’s father expressed how impressed he was with SpellBound and said “we could really use this at home!” Even with our language barrier, I was able to use SpellBound to engage with the patient through play, while also collaborating with his father to create a fun, educational experience.

Decreasing Pain Perception

A 5-year-old patient came to the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology clinic for severe pain in her legs, she struggled to walk and stand due to the pain. She appeared to be tired and lethargic while laying in a chair in the infusion room. I brought out my SpellBound cards and iPad to show the patient and she quickly and actively engaged. She sat up in the chair so that she was closer to me and she even folded and sat on her aching legs so that she was able to interact with the animals and various scenes on the iPad. In this case, the patient’s perception of her pain and her fatigue seemed to be reduced when engaging with the cards. I would ask the patient to name the animals I showed her and she would quickly yell out, “Lion! Butterfly! Mouse! Elephant!” She flipped through my cards and wanted to make sure she saw and explored what each card could offer. Providing patients with as many choices as possible in an environment where they may feel as though they have lost a lot of control can increase that sense of mastery over their situation. After I stepped out of the patient’s room, her nurse came to me to talk about how amazing the SpellBound app is and she thanked me for helping the patient have a fun experience at the hospital.

We love stories like these that highlight how trained child life professionals, play, and developmentally-appropriate preparation can totally transform a patient and family’s experience in the hospital. This is exactly why we create our tools: to improve patient experience and to make the healthcare journey a better one for everyone involved. But the tools wouldn’t be anything without those who use them—we are grateful for people like Paige who use their creativity and skills to utilize SpellBound and make incredible experiences for patients.


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Rachel MartindaleComment