Child Life specialists at Mayo Clinic have a unique and important job. As trained health care professionals, they help Mayo Clinic's youngest patients (and their families) navigate the often frightening world of illness, injury and hospitalization. And they do it in innovative ways, creating environments and events that allow kids to still be kids while going through whatever has brought them to Mayo Clinic. "Kids learn best through play," Mayo Clinic Child Life Specialist Val Stuve tells us. "And so part of our goal in Child Life is to provide kids with a normal environment where they can still play and grow mentally, emotionally and socially."
While patient feedback indicates they're doing just fine on their own, sometimes Stuve and her Child Life colleagues need a little help bringing their grand visions to life. And when they do, they know just who to call: Keith Larson and his team of Facilities Operations carpenters, painters and groundskeepers. "I cannot say enough about this team or about how much we in Child Life appreciate them," Stuve says. "It doesn't matter what we ask of them, they always come through."
Whether it's helping hang decorative snowflakes during the holiday season, creating an Instagram board like the one used during Child Life's recent American Ninja Warrior-themed event, or designing and building intricate play kitchens, Stuve says the answer is the same: Sure, no problem. Facilities staff have also been tapped to create medical play areas, build train tables and "mini-MRI machines to put dolls through," and design and build portable tables "that Velcro onto wheelchairs." They've even created tiny halos for dolls to ease the fears of children who need to be in a medical halo. "They've never said, 'We can't do that,'" Stuve tells us. "They've always prioritized our young patients and have always come through for us by doing all of these sweet things that probably aren't necessarily in their job descriptions."
Larson tells us partnering with Child Life in these ways allows his team to feel connected to patient care at Mayo Clinic. "We help and serve all of our patients in different ways, but this is more of a direct and intimate way to really be a part of their healing and recovery," he says. "It's so gratifying to be able to help them out and help soften the fears of whatever they're going through medically."
And Stuve says that is what Larson and his team do every day. "Having all of these exciting things that help us bring the hospital environment down to more of a kid level really helps improve the overall patient experience at Mayo Clinic," she says. "If we didn't have our Facilities team to create them for us, we couldn't be nearly as fun and engaging as we are with our patients."
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