Sparrow Child Life program helps families during often-traumatic experiences

You may not know it but Sparrow is the only hospital in mid-Michigan with a Child Life team that aids children and families during some of the most traumatic experiences of their lives.

The goal of the Child Life program is to partner with healthcare providers and families to ensure a child's experience at Sparrow is as stress-free as possible. The team's role is crucial at the Granger Pediatric Emergency Department, which will soon enter its 10th anniversary year.

On a typical day, the Child Life staff may go to X-ray to keep a child company, hold a child during a procedure to keep them calm, or work with parents to ensure the child is not scared while visiting the hospital.

"It's a traumatic experience for kids and parents to visit the hospital," said Jodi Winsett-Nonel, Certified Child Life Specialist. "So, it's our job to help them through it. Just today I was with a 5-year-old as he received stitches. We played on the iPad together and I kept him distracted and happy to allow the doctor to complete the procedure. His mother told me she was very relieved he was able to get through it without getting upset. That's what it's all about."

Nonel said the team helps families throughout the hospital, trains medical professionals on how to make kids more comfortable, and works with siblings of children in hospice.

Amy Blasen, D.O., Emergency Medicine, said the Child Life program has made a significant impact in the Pediatric ED.

"Their partnership allows us really to focus on the medical needs of the child while they handle the Patient's emotional needs," Dr. Blasen said. "We realize going to the hospital canbe very overwhelming for families so we all want to do what is needed to make it as positive as possible."