News & Events

Child Life Program eases anxiety for pediatric surgery patients

Surgery can sometimes seem frightening for adults, but especially for children. To help relieve these worries, our child life specialists are here to provide specialized support to children and their families in preparation for surgery.

“Every child that comes to the operating room (OR) is cared for based on their own needs, their concerns and the level of anxiety that they and their family members may be experiencing,” said Child Life Services Director Andrea Colliton.

Before the day of surgery, children and their families are shown pictures, videos and medical equipment based on the age and developmental level of the child. This helps them to become familiar with what they may see and helps to alleviate anxiety. Child life specialists also provide medical play and preparation opportunities for children, such as practice placing an anesthesia mask up to their face or even on a favorite stuffed animal.

Child life specialists work closely with families

Family members work closely with Child Life Services to prepare their child for what to expect during their time at Tufts Medical Center. This also helps the entire family get comfortable with the process.

Since parents know their children best and know how their child is likely to react or cope with the experience, it’s incredibly helpful for them to share their thoughts and concerns with the Child Life Services team. “It is important that we recognize each patient and family member may have different needs. We make sure they are prepared for what is going to happen and receive compassionate care and support,” noted Andrea.

Expanding the program

The Child Life program has grown over the past few years with additional services becoming available to more families. The team has been looking at the benefits of education, preparation and family support, and they’ve also implemented family experience surveys. Through these surveys, they have learned more about the difference they are making. The team has received wonderful feedback in regards to the support they provide before surgery, and it’s helped them determine which services are having the greatest impact.

In one survey a parent wrote, “I chose to stay with my son for his anesthesia process and I’m very relieved that it was an option. It allowed me to be with him and see the team together. As a mother, it’s an experience that gave me comfort because I knew he was in good hands.”

Andrea said, “Staff members have also continuously commented on how helpful and important the role of the child life specialist is in order to support the child and family through their entire health care experience. Families of children that have had multiple OR experiences will return and share with our team how their child coped.”

If a family member is concerned that their child may have a challenging time coping with surgery, they can ask their physician to be connected with Child Life Services.