Blood Tests and MRI’s: How Child Life Specialists at BC Children’s Hospital Help You Cope
by Jackie Nixon, CCLS and Lisa Knight, CCLS | November 18, 2019
Jack’s mother knew there was something wrong with Jack’s health. He wasn’t himself. His doctor asked her to take him for blood work and an MRI, and knowing that her son had anxiety and a fear of needles, Jack’s mom didn’t know how these tests were going to get done. Jack wouldn’t even get in the car if he knew he was going for a blood test let alone sit in a chair in the lab. So the thought of him lying still for a 30 minute MRI seemed hopeless. How was she going to get these medical tests done to help figure out what was going on with her son?
Emily is a 12 year old girl living with Down Syndrome. She has been getting blood tests multiple times a year for her entire life. Her mom and dad would often carry her into the collection room as Emily would fall to the floor in protest, and her parents worried that this was the only way their daughter could get a blood test. Her coping just seemed to be getting worse as she got older.
Being at the hospital can be stressful for anyone. Children and youth may experience anxiety and pain related to their diagnosis, procedures, or treatments because they process the world differently than adults and have a different set of needs than what might be assumed. Children can often experience fear, shame and confusion when entering the health care system and will often need guidance in how to cope with these emotions. It is common for patients to avoid hospital procedures when they are scared and overwhelmed.
Thankfully, children like Jack and Emily can come to BC Children’s Hospital to practice getting a blood test or an MRI. Through our Poke Practice Program, Jack can have a series of visits to the lab where he can learn to expect when they get their blood tests and how to cope with it. Allowing him to get this blood test will give his doctor the information needed to make a diagnosis.
Our MRI Simulator Program allows patients like Jack to practice and gain confidence in getting an MRI. A child life specialist works to help patients gain the confidence needed to complete an MRI without a general anesthetic. *For more information, please see this video.
Child life specialists (CLS) are trained in child and youth development and coordinate these specialized programs. They help children and youth understand their experiences and feelings through play, education and support. A child life specialist is a member of the health care team who can advocate for the patient and family’s voice to be heard. They can come alongside the family to help navigate the health care system.
Child life specialists can help patients like Jack and Emily feel more comfortable in hospitals by helping to build trust and coping skills. Contact a child life specialist for our Poke Practice Program or MRI Simulator Program to book your practice session.