Child Life Specialist at Children's, Memorial Hermann Hospital
She’s not there to set broken bones or diagnose elusive ailments. Instead, she finds ways to help the child deal with a frightening situation.
Children can find much to frighten them in a hospital setting – syringes, anesthesia, loud machines, strangers in white coats. Hollie, a certified child life specialist at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, uses familiar objects to help young patients cope with their fears.
Whether the child is in ER, day surgery or has been admitted to the hospital, Hollie’s goal is the same: to create a child-friendly environment. She uses tools such as toys, stuffed animals, games and handmade quilts donated by various church groups to make the hospital feel less threatening.
“I am their ‘friend’ at the hospital that they learn to trust very quickly,” she says. “They feel comfortable with me.”
Hollie is creative is helping young patients cope with their hospital encounter. “I prepare them for surgery by using teaching dolls or characters to describe how they will receive their anesthesia through a small mask and then let them choose their favorite flavor of Chapstick to go in the mask,” she says. “We talk about taking a ‘nap’ with the special sleepy gas so the doctor can fix their body, arm, leg, tummy, etc., while they are sleeping. I then escort the child into the operating room and provide comfort and support for them until they are asleep.”
In the emergency room, she walks children and their families through preparations for tests and procedures. She accompanies children into the operating room and stays with them until the anesthesia takes effect.
“They feel comfortable with me and many times ask for me when they wake up,” she says.
A new field of study
Hollie, who graduated from ACU in 2005 with a degree in human development/family studies, became interested in becoming a child life specialist while still in college. “Child Life was still a fairly new field to many of the faculty in the family studies program, but they always were willing to help me seek information and encourage every step of the way,” she says.
After graduation from ACU, she completed a child life internship at Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas in 2006 and was immediately hired by the Sugar Land hospital. “I completed my internship in May and started my first job as a Child Life Specialist in June,” she says. “It was the first job I interviewed for, and I was so thrilled to have a job in my degree field.”
ACU’s Department of Sociology and Family Studies gave Hollie a solid foundation for her profession, she says. “I felt like my education at ACU was truly a guidebook for life as a human and, most importantly, as a Christian. It was such an awesome experience with many hands-on opportunities throughout the degree plan.”
Hollie has found many rewards in her job, “but most of all, it is rewarding when I see a big smile on a child’s face and their eyes light up and they have a positive experience in the hospital. I have had several pediatric patients say, ‘Do I have to go home already?’ It is truly a blessing to make a difference in their lives on a daily basis.”