When the IWK Vaccine Clinic needed help with vaccinating children and youth with needle anxieties, as well as those with varying developmental needs, Child Life Specialists were vital to their success.
Healthcare experiences can often be stressful and confusing for children, youth, and their families. Child Life Specialists provide developmentally appropriate psychosocial and therapeutic interventions to support coping and lessen the potentially negative impacts of healthcare experiences.
“Our goal is to help children build confidence in their ability to overcome these tasks,” says Child Life Specialist Cassidy Mante-Adjei. “In the clinic, we can use individualized coping plans to support a child or adolescent.”
Mante-Adjei and fellow Child Life Specialist Mandy Rice worked with children and their families when they visited the IWK Vaccine Clinic. They also provided phone consultations and created coping plans with families prior to their appointments.
“During our phone consultations, we provided education around coping with and preparing for vaccination,” says Rice. “This gave caregivers the tools necessary to prepare at home prior to their appointment and allowed children to become familiar with the steps in the comfort of their own home.”
They were also consulted by outside organizations such as public health and community pharmacies regarding children or adolescents who were struggling to be vaccinated; many of whom came with past negative experiences around needles and several unsuccessful vaccination attempts.
In total, Mante-Adjei and Rice provided support for about 225 appointments in the three months that they helped in the IWK Vaccine Clinic. While most consults were for children between the ages of five and 11, they also saw those aged 12 and over. And some of those appointments were children or youth who returned for support with their second vaccine.
Families who were booked in for an appointment with Child Life were provided with a 45-minute time slot rather than the usual ten minutes. This extra time allowed the team to create a calm, safe, and low stimulus environment for the child to build rapport, practice the immunization process and coping strategies, and engage in basic desensitization techniques.
Some children and youth benefitted from having practice visits. These visits involved taking a tour of the clinic and the immunization room, meeting an immunizer, and rehearsing the steps and their coping strategies. By doing this, children were able to build skills for future healthcare experiences and debunk any myths they may have had about getting vaccinated.
March is Child Life Month.